KARACHI: ‘This product contains no lard’ and ‘Not for individual sale’ are the two notes printed on the white and blue high-energy biscuit packet distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme that are selling for five rupees in Kambar-Shahdadkot district.
“I wondered what my son was doing with the biscuits when he went to a shop,” remarked Azizullah, a government official and resident of Lalu Raunk in Kambar-Shahdadkot. “When I went to the shop, believe me there was a big stock of the biscuits and soaps funded by donors. When I asked the shop owner, he said he had bought them from the district headquarters of Kamber Ali Khan.”
According to reports, the biscuits are not the only donor items available in the open market. Soap, shampoo, ghee, pulses and noodles are also surfacing in places such as Shikarpur, Jacobabad and Thatta. The items carry either the WFP or Unicef logos or those of other agencies and are selling for throwaway prices.
“To some extent flood survivors who have been given the rations are themselves selling them in the markets,” said Paryal Marri, who is the coordinator for the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in Shikarpur and Sukkur districts. She has personally seen biscuits, ghee and pulses being sold. “In most cases, the workers of the implementing organisation for the donors are involved in the practice.”
There were reports that people were living hand to mouth in the relief camps and stocks of rations were found holed up in warehouses. “After complaints were received, the administration of Thul taluka in Jacobabad raided and discovered hundreds of bags from warehouses and the same thing is going on in other districts,” Marri told The Express Tribune.
World Food Programme’s Larkana division monitoring officer Humera Shaikh told The Express Tribune, however, that they have not received a single complaint. But the organisation’s Pakistan spokesman, Amjad Jamal, contradicted her and said that they could not rule out the sale of the items in the open market.
“We have also received these complaints and have ordered an impartial inquiry into the matter in different areas,” he said. “We are waiting for the findings to see who is involved, whether flood victims are selling them or our local partners.” He hastened to add, however, that it was not “alarming” as they were only looking at a mere one per cent of the total amount of distributed rations of the World Food Programme.
The district coordination officers have been strictly asked by the Sindh government to ensure the rations are properly distributed to flood survivors. Kambar-Shahdadkot DCO Yasin Shar maintained that it was not possible for anyone to sell the donor rations on his watch. “I will inquire into the matter and will arrest the people involved in the business,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2010.
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