PRESS RELEASE (IREDD Releases First Quarter Monitoring Report on Government of Liberia Covid-19 Household Food Support Program)

Monrovia - August 17, 2020

The Institute for Research and Democratic Development Releases Initial Findings on Government’s Food Distribution Scheme. In response to COVID-19’s expected toll on the most vulnerable of its citizens, the Government of Liberia launched what it called 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, 1 gallon of vegetable oil and a 10 kg of beans to help sustain the family during the pandemic. IREDD, funded by the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI), undertook to strengthen transparency and accountability in Government’s rollout of the stimulus package by performing site monitoring visits to food distribution centers to assess how readily the centers are accessible to citizens, whether COVID-19 health protocols are been observed and whether the distributions are provided citizens as planned.

Initial steps taken in our monitoring effort involved writing both World Food Program (WFP) and the Ministry of Commerce for the comprehensive plan on food distribution. Unfortunately, both failed to provide us with any plan whatsoever. Follow-up with civil society representatives on the Covid19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP) also failed as we were told there is as yet, no comprehensive plan or schedule; that the food distribution is done community per community. In spite of these initial challenges, IREDD team found that the World Food Program (WFP), contracted by the Government to leverage its expertise in food distribution, further sub-contracted two local non-governmental institutions: Christian Humanitarian Services (CHS) and VOSEIDA West Africa to carry out the local distributions. With the basic information we have regarding the food distribution, IREDD monitored GOL food distribution in 10 communities located in district 7 & 8, comprising of twenty distribution sites.

The following are findings from our first quarter monitoring exercise:

  • Food distribution is hampered by the lack of a holistic distribution plan; both WFP and Ministry of Commerce do not have a complete framework for implementing food distribution;

 

  • The food distribution exercise is moving at a very slow pace and this is mostly due to the strategy WFP is using. For example, on the day of distribution, all resources are diverted toward the targeted area and it takes minimum 3 days to complete distribution in that area and another week before they move into a new distribution area. With this pace, this strategy limits our speed and could hinder the achievement of some deliverable.

 

  • Some homes have not been enumerated by LIGIS and were not issued tickets during the food distribution. The overlooked homes have registered their complaints with VOSIEDA and CHS;

 

  • The serving of the 50kg beans to five households at a time is not convenient as citizens have to await four other households before being served;

 

  • There was an ongoing political primary held by the Coalition for Democratic Change at West Point Town Hall on Friday July 31, 2020 while food distribution was ongoing nearby. The primary proceeded between two distribution sites (Church of Pentecost and N.V Massaquoi) which increased over crowdedness and interfered with movements in and around distribution sites.

 

IREDD calls on the World Food Program and the Ministry of Commerce to provide the public with a complete framework for the rollout of Government’s stimulus package relative to food distribution including timelines, location and costs. IREDD also calls for the enforcement of COVID19 health protocol at all distribution sites to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease; the World Food Program to deploy more people in the field to increase the pace of food distribution and that distributors should treat citizens with dignity by making distribution sites more conducive and accessible to citizens particularly older and physically challenged especially in an event of rainfall while people are in queue.

 

While, IREDD recognizes the hard work of local organizations: CHS, VOSIEDA West Africa, it is our hope that the $25 Million invested in the food distribution meets its intended purpose.