Liberia: COVID-19 Food Distribution 'Not Possible'

-Wilson Tarpeh, Commerce Minister says new date to be announced

Commerce Minister, Wilson Tarpeh has disclosed that the distribution of food to households in a bid to mitigate the impact, on the population, of lockdown measures intended to contain the further spread of the deadly Coronavirus, will not take place on Saturday, May 23 due to what he refers to as logistical challenges.

Tarpeh who chairs the Presidential Steering Committee on the distribution of rice and other food items to the public, said in a phone-in interview with the Truth Breakfast Show recently that initially, 200,000 households or 2,000,000 people were planned for but there are now indications that the number may increase up to 3.5 million people.

"We were hoping to share food among 200,000 households which account for 2,000,000 people (5 persons per house), but there is now an indication that it could rise to 3.5 million people or 300,000 households," he said.

Tarpeh added that the money for the nationwide distribution of the food supplies is yet to come in full, and a definite date will be announced after everything is put in place for implementation of the plan.

"We are waiting for the additional money that is required to do the job. We are working with partners, and as soon that is complete, the steering committee will announce a definite date," he said.

He pointed out that the World Health Organization (WHO), World Food Program, and the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-information Services (LISGIS) are all in the field collecting data for the implementation of the food distribution program to go on smoothly.

"Increase in cost will require more resources and note, the whole thing is driven by the health authorities. We are just helping in the implementation of the program," the Commerce and Industry Minister said.

He clarified that speculations suggesting that the COVID-19 feeding program will no longer be implemented are untrue.

"Structures, such as community leaders will lead the way in each of the places we will be distributing the food. No one will come from New Kru Town, for example, to distribute food to residents of Paynesville Joe Bar community," Tarpeh said.

He mentioned that the Finance Committee for the distribution of the food is headed by the World Bank office in the country, while the International Monetary Fund (IMF), civil society organizations, among others, will also have a part each to play in ensuring that the distribution goes on well.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has passed the COVID-19 recast budget leaving the Senate to concur.

It may be recalled that Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah said the food supply could only affect households with vulnerable residents.

However, he explained that based on the wisdom of the Legislature, almost the entire country's population (3.5 million people) will benefit.

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