Considering the pace at which the World Food Program (WFP) is distributing the Government’s stimulus COVID-19 food with only 21 communities receiving in three months; the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) is recommending to WFP to decentralize the food package distribution or deploy more people in the field to increase the pace of the food distribution.
IREDD said WFP’s strategy is causing a great deal of delay in the food distribution and must be aborted to have the distribution activities in other districts simultaneously.
The Program Manager of the IREDD COVID-19 Food Package, Prince D. Gaye, said though the pace of the distribution is slightly accelerated as compared to the launch in July, the stimulus food package is still being distributed slowly because of the strategy the WFP is using.
Mr. Gaye made the recommendation at a press briefing on Wednesday, September 16 after a day-long policy engagement dialogue with the two locally sub-contracted organizations, the Volunteers for Sustainable Developments in Africa (VOSIEDA), and the Christian Humanitarian Services (CHS).
Mr. Gaye said the objective of the dialogue was to share the first quarter’s ‘Stimulus Package’ report and strengthen cooperation.
The CHS and VOSIEDA West Africa are responsible for distributing tickets and food to houses that have been numbered (marked) by the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
Besides the slow pace of the distribution, two of the community leaders told the Daily Observer exclusively that over 455 persons from four communities within the Doe Community have not benefited due to exclusion caused by oversight.
The community leader said the error resulted in some disadvantaged youths robbing community members of their stimulus package.
It may be recalled that the Government of Liberia in response to the impact of COVID-19 mainly on disadvantaged populations launched a “stimulus package” to provide minimal food and credit assistance to communities around the country.
The food package, as proposed, consists of each qualified household receiving two 25 kg bags of rice, one gallon of vegetable oil and a 10kg of beans to help sustain the family during the pandemic.
But IREDD, in its monitoring report funded by the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) to strengthen transparency and accountability as the Government rolled out the stimulus package, says the distribution process is flawed.
IREDD is conducting site monitoring at food distribution centers to assess how readily the centers are accessible to citizens, whether COVID-19 health protocols are being observed and whether the distributions are impacting citizens as planned.
The report also shows that the acquisition of public information is a serious challenge to the monitoring process as many offices that were contacted are apparently concealing sensitive information such as the food distribution budget and the distribution plan.
“In the absence of a holistic distribution plan from WFP and its implementing partners, we find it difficult to develop our monitoring plan since we do not know when and where their next distribution will cover. We have to rely on field staff who would not give us substantial information without authorization for fear that their jobs will be threatened. We had to be on the site on the day of distribution to gather available information from field staff,” IREDD disclosed in its report.
“IREDD monitored Twenty distribution sites within two districts (district 7 & 8) in Montserrado County from July 29 to August 12, 2020. A total of 10 communities were covered: Seven Communities in West Point Township and three communities in Central Monrovia. Each community is further demarcated into blocks.”
The IREDD report also discovered that the World Food Program and the Ministry of Commerce are yet to provide the public with a complete framework for the rollout of the Government’s stimulus package relative to food distribution including timelines, location, and costs.
Meanwhile, IREDD has expressed its disappointments over the absenteeism of the Ministries of Finance and Development Planning and Commerce as well as LISGIS in the policy engagement dialogue.
There are reports that IREDD is expected to release its second quarter’s report on Monday, September 21.