LIBERIA: Blind Association Rejects COVID-19 Food
Members of the United Blind Association of Liberia located in LPRC community along Somalia Drive have refused eight (8) bags of rice (25kg) taken to them by the World Food Programme as part of government’s Covid-19 stimulus food package.
The dissatisfied and visually-impaired citizens Wednesday afternoon erected road block to prevent a WFP truck from entering their community due to what termed “inhumane” treatment from the government.
An executive of the United Blind Association Stanley S. Swen, narrated on a live talk show hosted by Cool FM that government had promised to provide food for most vulnerable Liberians in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, including blind and physically-challenged citizens.
He noted that the most vulnerable people are the handicapped and the visually-impaired and in every outbreak they should get first priority from the government. He disclosed that the WFP carried the eight bags rice to them and said it is for 20 persons.
However, Stanley pointed out that the UBAL presented a list of 65 visually-impaired persons, but the WFP brought ightbags of rice for 20 persons to be shared at two persons to a bag.
According to him, the government went there to play fun, explaining that the Association runs a boarding school that has huge enrolment besides their children living with them, adding that in a week, they consume a bag of rice.
Stanley explained that they tried getting to authorities of the food distribution but to no avail.
He said it is better they die with hunger than to receive eight bags of rice from the Government of Liberia because the rice cannot feed all of their members, so it was better the government took back the rice.
Also speaking to journalists, a teacher at the school for the blind said, they refused the rice because the entire 65 membership would not benefit from eight (25kg) bags of rice.
He lamented the government is not doing justice to them, adding that they have an organization with school, so how could the authorities give them eight bags of rice.
He reiterated they are refusing the rice because the government did not do them justice.
A representative from the WFP, who asked for anonymity, confirmed to journalists that they took eight (25kg) bags of rice to members of the UBAL, but referred further inquiry to the WFP Head Office in Monrovia.
The Government of Liberia thru the 54th Legislature approved a US$25 million stimulus to distribute food to vulnerable Liberians amid lockdown and a State of Emergency declared by President Weah to fight the global health pandemic.
The World Bank reportedly added $5 million grant to the amount, bringing the total to US$30 million.
But the entire process has been marred by suspicions and lack of clarity as to the usage of the money, and if food would actually reach the people, who need it most.
Before commencement of actual distribution, the chairman of the COVID-19 food distribution steering committee, Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh had informed the Liberian Senate the World Food Programme, hired by the government to execute the food distribution, has charged US$9 million for “administrative and operational cost” to do the job, but Tarpeh made a 90 degree turn around subsequently after WFP debunked the figure.
Communication Officer James Belgrave clarified that WFP is being allocated a small percentage of around six percent (US$1.8 million) of the US$30 million to conduct the exercise, not US$9million, as claimed by Tarpeh.