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Anxiety over COVID-19 Stimulus Food Package

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Despite households enumeration by the Liberia Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS) several citizens in Maryland County have expressed frustrations over prolonged delay of the government COVID-19 Stimulus Food package reaching the county.

The Stimulus Food Package is intended to ease economic burden posed by the pandemic on vulnerable families across Liberia since the outbreak in March 2020.

Residents of Harper, Pleebo and Karluway districts, like many areas were enumerated by LISGIS for food distribution, but they now lament that answering survey questions in the hope of getting their names in the data base to benefit from food ration has been a “complete waste of time”.

Madam Grace Collins, a widow with six children, who sells palmnuts at the Harper General Market to support her family said, when her home was enumerated, she was hopeful the food distribution would have been done early, but instead, her eyes has been on the road for over three months, waiting for the arrival of the COVID-19 food distribution. But nothing has entered the county.

She notes that the Weah-led administration has played games with them regarding the food, saying each time she thinks about the situation, she wants to cry.
“If they [the government] do not want to give us food, it’s Ok, then keeping us hoping for nothing”, she laments.

Mother Collins continues that though they have been surviving thru their petty businesses, but since the pandemic has created a serious setback on the economy, the hope now is the COVID-19 Stimulus Food Package, noting that it will be a great help.

Sarah Dennis, another resident of Harper City who sells water to cater to her family explains that since government made the pronouncement, her eyes have been on the road, awaiting the food ration, but it is yet to come.

“Since we heard about this food business, they can’t bring it now?” She asks, and adds, since the pronouncement “we were so happy although we never knew when and how they would bring it. She says delay in the food distribution has become a worrisome situation for them as Liberians.

“My son, let me inform you that since this Corona Virus Pandemic, things have been difficult for me and my family, so I thought the government’s Food Package could have been a help to me and my family, but we have not received anything, so it’s like nothing will come for Marylanders.”

50-year-old Allen Togar, who is an artisanal fisherman, says he has been waiting for the food package after the global pandemic slowed fishing activities in the county.
“We are going to almost five months now and the food cannot come, and this is a problem, and we need to be serious about this,” Togar said.

“This has caused me and my family to go in debts, which we can’t pay. We expected something good to come when they started because of the late time.”

Frank Jayfin, a resident of Barrobo, Maryland County Electoral district#3 says, they have long waited on the arrival of the food, but up to present, it has yet to enter the county.

He describes the situation as being unbearable and hopes the government should see reason to provide the food rations because they have been patiently waiting for the package since its information was pronounced.

“We are hopeful of getting the package to help our family, because this Government needs to work, and I hope this one overstayed package can be brought to the citizens of the county”, he pleads.

Meanwhile, this paper has gathered that the government and the WFP are collaborating with Caritas Cape Palmas to carry out food distribution in Maryland County.

Although the Catholic-run NGO rejected an interview request, but close sources hinted food distribution will begin in this January 2021.

Recent report from COVID-19 Household Stimulus Food Package Steering Committee, said the delay in the implementation process was attributed to beneficiaries’ registration process which includes identification and verification of the most vulnerable households.

The Steering Committee also pointed to poor road conditions (due to the prolonged seasonal rains), slow food distribution pace due to partner capacity, distributions interrupted by angered Community members, and unauthorized food distribution by community members and leaders.

The New Dawn gathers that a vessel expected to have arrived in Harper City on 22nd of December 2020 with over 1,080 metric tons of food was delayed and subsequently expected to arrive on December 29, 2020, but up to present, it hasn’t reached the costal county.

However, Caritas Cape Palmas Partners, as part of preparations for the food distribution, has started to engage local leaders, sensitizing them on the COHSFP, its objectives and planned activities.

The Partners have also commenced identifying civil society organizations and community-based organizations for support in accelerating the food distribution.

They are also in close cooperation with community leaders and partners who have started clustering of communities to ease logistical bottlenecks during the food dispatch and distribution.

In July 2020 the Government of Liberia announced the COVID-19 Household Food Support Program (COHFSP) for communities through a partnership with the World Food Program to distribute food to only vulnerable Liberians.

Latest report from the COHFSP states that data entrance and processing have been completed in five southeastern counties namely; Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee and Sinoe in preparation for the distribution.

The data entrance exercise was recently carried out in Maryland County by 40 data clerks who were locally recruited through the World Food Programme Harper Field Officer. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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