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DEPRIVING THE NEEDY

The World Food Programme (WFP) must be highly commended for helping Sierra Leone with the problem of food supply to Ebola survivals, quarantined homes and isolated communities that are desperately in need of food after the outbreak of the Ebola Viral Disease (EVD) in the country. This assistance comes following the recent study by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicating food scarcity at the end of this year as a result of the impact of the outbreak of the epidemic on able-bodied men and women in agricultural areas and the restrictions posed by the declaration of the State of Public Health Emergency.

As much as we commend the humanitarian assistance WFP is rendering to Sierra Leone at this time of the Ebola outbreak, we however believe the UN Agency should evaluate its distribution process as media reports of alleged anomalies in the whole process abound.

Last week, the Member of Parliament for Constituency 004 in the Kailahun District was appalled that the community based organization – Community Integration Development Organization (CIDO) - which the WFP contracted to register and supply food items to Ebola survivals and quarantined homes on its behalf only covered about 32% households in his constituency leaving out an alarming 78% of beneficiaries. Also in the Western Area Rural District of Waterloo, thousands of beneficiaries complained that the coupons that were issued for the food supply largely went to people who are not residents of the Waterloo Community. According to the complaints, most of the true residents of Waterloo have not been receiving any food supply but spent the whole day at the distribution centres with their children only to return home with empty hands, thereby worsening the situation of the vulnerable people who should be the real beneficiaries. It was even reported that a poor lactating mother lost her baby during a stampede at one of the distribution centres and hundreds of people got injured.

It seems that the WFP’s distribution process which is aimed at cushioning the plight of vulnerable Sierra Leoneans is doing more harm than good. The WFP may have good intention for supplying the needy with food items, but the way the distribution process is being handled by its local contractors leaves much to be desired. With such anomalies in the distribution process, we wonder whether the requirements for the local contractors were actually genuine because contracts in this country are more or less based on political connections. Even though we have many credible local CBO’s or NGO’s that can handle such distribution process to the satisfaction of beneficiaries, but they will never be recommended for such contracts because they are not politically connected. The so-called local contractors must be playing mischievous tricks in the distribution process and their nefarious acts could impact negatively on the UN Agency.

But we believe that WFP is very reputable and should be seen living to its reputation and expectation. That is why we believe it should go back to the drawing board and evaluate its distribution process before it could embark on another strategy that would better the real target beneficiaries now suffering from the pangs of hunger because of the Ebola outbreak.

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