6 February 2013

Mozambique: South African NGO Ignored Aid Distribution Plans

Maputo — The South African Islamic organisation “Gift of the Givers” acted in bad faith, and attempted to distribute food aid for flood victims in violation of the procedures laid down by the Mozambican authorities, according to Joao Ribeiro, general director of the Mozambican relief agency, the National Disaster Management Institute (INGC).

Gift of the Givers has claimed, in articles that appeared in the South African press, that it had to pull out of the largest temporary accommodation centre for flood victims, at Chihaquelane, some 30 kilometres outside the flooded town of Chokwe, because of alleged corruption in food aid distribution.

The founder of Gift of the Givers, Imtiaz Sooleiman, claimed that “camp officials” put their own names down for food aid valued at 225,000 US dollars.

Ribeiro told AIM on Wednesday that Gift of the Givers told the INGC it wanted to deliver its aid personally, but the INGC refused. “We told them we had to follow our distribution plan”, Ribeiro said. The INGC works in partnership with bodies such as the Mozambique Red Cross (CVM) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), “and we distribute jointly in order to avoid overlaps”.

Despite these instructions, Ribeiro added, the South African NGO went to Chihaquelane, without the presence of any Mozambican government bodies, and said they wanted a list of 200 people who would receive their aid.

But Chihaquelane is by far the largest accommodation centre in the country, with a current population of 21,000 families. When the news that aid was to be distributed spread, thousands of people quickly gathered, and Gift of the Givers beat a hasty retreat.

Later they went to smaller settlements in Gaza province, and distributed some food in front of TV cameras.

As for Sooleiman’s claims that “camp officials” were trying to grab the food, Ribeiro said that Chihaquelane is organised into neighbourhoods, which reflect the neighbourhoods of Chokwe town. Each community is organised by the same neighbourhood officials that were in place in the town before it was flooded.

The lists of food aid beneficiaries are organised by the community leaders, who are just as much flood victims as everyone else. Gift of the Givers “is trying to politicize the matter. All the people in the centres are displaced and are victims”, said Ribeiro.

“We told them – you can’t deliver your aid outside of the government structures”, he added. Apparently Gift of the Givers eventually accepted this, and on Tuesday their aid was distributed through official channels to flood victims currently living at Mavivila in Bilene district.

Ribeiro added that the donation from Gift of the Givers is not as large as the South African group claims, and represents just one per cent of the total donations the INGC has received.

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