NGOs ‘confirm’ food aid looting

NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS (NGOs) have vowed to directly hand over aid to Chingwizi Camp inhabitants following reports of rampant looting of donated food and clothing handouts by government officials.

TATENDA CHITAGU
OWN CORRESPONDENT

All aid for the victims of the Tokwe-Mukosi Dam floods is meant to be recorded at the Provincial Affairs ministry and then handed over to government officials for distribution at the overcrowded transit camp.

This, according to the flood victims and NGOs, created loopholes for looting of donated items, politicisation of the aid food as well as sexual exploitation in return for food.

The camp inhabitants, numbering about 18 000, complained that some of the donated stuffs had not reached them and also accused some officials of demanding sex from women in exchange for food.

However, Masvingo Provincial Affairs minister Kudakwashe Bhasikiti brushed aside the allegations as malicious.

“Those are malicious reports. We have done three audits so far and no anomaly has been detected. The process is very open and transparent,” Bhasikiti said.

However, the umbrella body for the civic society, the Masvingo Civil Society Association (MCSA) told journalists yesterday that NGOs had resolved to hand over the donations to the flood victims themselves and not through the government to dispel fears of alleged looting, favouritism and the sex-for-food scams.

“The position that we took is that we have to be on the ground and do the distribution ourselves. This follows allegations that some of the donated items were not reaching the intended beneficiaries who are the hapless villagers suffering under the crisis,” MCSA director Anozivaishe Muguti said.

“There are also reports that some officials are taking advantage of the villagers’ desperation to demand sex from young girls and women in exchange for food handouts.”

Muguti said the allegations of looting are actually blocking potential well-wishers and donors, and the government had to open up the distribution process if the villagers are to receive sufficient aid.

“Some people willing to bring their donations are actually not forthcoming because of such fears. If the process is transparent, then people may come out with the little that they have and these flood victims may get more help,” Muguti added.

The Combined Mutare Residents’ Trust (CMRT), which is embarking on a sponsored walk from Mutare to Harare, passed through Masvingo yesterday to solicit for donations for the Chingwizi Camp residents and supported the stance taken by the MCSA.

“The proceeds that we will raise from this march are meant for the people in the transit camp and not vultures who want to steal from the poor and making them poorer. We have passed through the transit camp and we spoke to the people there who said some of the donations are being diverted for personal use by officials there,” CMRT co-ordinator David Mutumba said.

“Therefore, we will handover the donations to the families ourselves. The officials who have looted have looted enough. We do not want people who seek mileage out of a crisis,” Mutumba said.

The flood victims are living like virtual refugees in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions without water and proper toilets over and above the chronic food shortages.

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