GHARIKHERO, NAUSHEHRO FEROZE:
Workers of the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC), which has been providing food rations for flood victims in the Larkana relief camp, have been accused by locals of selling off the aid to shopkeepers, a charge the ICRC says it is investigating internally.
Locals allege that ICRC distribution teams stationed in Gharikhero, a village in the Naushehro Feroze district of Sindh, have been coaxing flood victims to give up their tokens (without which they cannot receive the aid) in exchange for a one-time supply of rations.
“The last time we went to collect rations, ICRC workers took away our tokens by threatening us that we wouldn’t be given rations at all if we didn’t comply,” said Khalid Ali, 45, a Sherbat Brohi village local.
ICRC officials were recently caught by locals selling rations provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to shopkeepers in the area.
Police escorted the ICRC workers off the scene and the relief supplies were taken to the police station. ICRC workers returned to the police station shortly afterwards and took the supplies back with them after showing the tokens that they had allegedly swindled the refugees out off.
Locals allege that an MPA of the area and his sons were behind the scam and the police, along with ICRC officials, were collaborating with them.
“I had no choice but to return the aid back to them because they brought tokens with them,” said SHO Miranpur, Abdul Aziz Qureshi, about the incident. “We receive many complaints regarding ICRC officials selling off aid but we cannot take action against them since the MPA has told us not to intervene.”
“We raided a warehouse where we uncovered a huge stock of USAID relief goods,” Qureshi said, adding, “The owner of the warehouse, Maniklal Shah, confessed that the aid had been stocked there by the MPA’s sons. We could not pursue the case and Shah was released owing to lack of evidence.”
The ICRC had a different version of the story. “Our truck was taken hostage by thugs. The police managed to recover the aid. We went to the police station with all the IDPs and made sure that they received their rations,” claimed one ICRC official, requesting anonymity.
“We are [aware of the allegations against us] but it’s the police who are corrupt. We have records that all relief is distributed amongst the IDPs. We have proof.”
Peter Lick, head of the delegation for ICRC, confirmed he was aware of the allegations and that they were in the midst of an investigation. “We take the matter very seriously and are looking into it. I cannot comment on it any further,” he said.
Alberto Rodriguez, official spokesperson for USAID, confirmed that the US government was also looking into the matter.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2011.
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