Sunday, February 2, 2014

Phalombe community members cry foul over food distribution

Some community members in Phalombe, one of the nine districts hit by hunger in the country, have cried foul over the manner beneficiaries were registered, claiming that some genuine beneficiaries have been left out.

But the Department of Disaster Management Affairs has thrown the ball back at the communities, saying it is community members themselves who identify and come up with a list of beneficiaries.

One of the affected people, 31-year-old Grace Matemba from Mwango Village , Group Village Headman Njovu, said she has been left out on the list of beneficiaries despite having no food in her family.

“They know I have no food items but they still sidelined me. I don’t know how to feed my six children,” Matemba said.

She said, out of 985 people in our village, only 50 people have received relief items.

Another community member, Christopher Gowelo of Ng’anjo Village, in the area of Traditional Authority Jenala, said while people who were registering beneficiaries knew that his maize and sorghum crop had failed, the still overlooked him.

“I just pray that we should be considered. I look after six biological children and two orphaned children and do not know where our next meal will come from,” he said.

Responding to the concerns in an interview, Principal Secretary and Commissioner, Disaster Management Affairs Department, Jeffrey Kanyinji, said the department works with Village Development Committees and local leaders who identify beneficiaries and send the list to the department.

“The community members know those who are in need. Among other things, they look at the assets of an individual and evaluate whether such assets are enough to see them through lean periods,” Kanyinji said.

Kanyinji also said, in order to ensure that people who deserve relief items are not left out, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) carries out assessments and releases two reports a year.

“For example, during the first MVAC report, Chiradzulu was not there. Now Chiradzulu is there. In the second report (released October)l, we have seen numbers of vulnerable people from Blantyre, Mulanje, Thyolo increase,” Kanyinji said.

Kanyinji that long-term efforts to cushion vulnerable communities from food insecurity were being put in place, citing resilience plans that include irrigation farming. He said the department is also encouraging people to grow drought-resistant crops such as sorghum.

He said some people have already started receiving maize seeds and fertilizer.

The department and development partners have launched an operation targeting nearly 700,000 beneficiaries in nine districts of Machinga, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Neno, Ntcheu, Phalombe, and Zomba.

The July Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report estimated that 1.6 million people- 1- percent of the rural population- will be food insecure during the peak of the hunger period, between January and March 2013.

However, preliminary results from the second 2012 MVAC update assessment, which took place between October 1 and 4 October this year, indicate an increased number of food insecure people in need of assistance. The government and WFP are waiting for the official results of the assessment to review their relief operation.

In response to the food insecurity situation in the country, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) formally requested WFP to start planning and making arrangements to support the Government of Malawi through DoDMA, in implementing a humanitarian programme to address MVAC needs.

In response to this request, WFP and its partners, under the overall leadership of the government, launched a relief in August in three district that were already vulnerable due to an early onset of the lean season. Assistance is being scaled up in a phased manner and will reach 1.6 million people in all 15b affected districts during the hunger period (January to March 2013). The operation is currently reaching nearly 700,000 beneficiaries in nine districts (Machinga, Chikhwawa, Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Neno, Ntcheu, Phalombe, and Zomba).

A World Food Programme statement released on November 6 indicate that, in August, 196,902 people were reached out with 2303 MT of maize, pulses, and super cereal, representing 100 percent of the target as planned.

September needs were covered for 499,284 people, with 5,713 MT of maize, pulses, super cereal , representing 100 percent of the target, while distributions in October were equally successful; however, these figures will be released once the reports are finalised.

“WFP is appealing to donors to bridge the remaining resource gap that currently stands at US$26 million to continue providing food assistance to the affected population in Malawi,” reads the statement in part.

Deputy WFP Country Director, Baton Osmani, said in an interview the agency has joined hands with partners to ensure that affected people are reached out. He said the programme was going on smoothly, and hoped that more people would be reached.

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