Friday, March 21, 2014

Food aid for Yolanda victims rotting?

 (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The country could be put in a bad light before the international donor community following reports that food aid for Super Typhoon Yolanda victims are left rotting without being distributed by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), an administration lawmaker said yesterday.

Valenzuela City Rep. Sherwin Gatchalian said such reports are “simply unacceptable by any standard,” adding the government has a moral obligation to feed and help Yolanda victims.
He pushed for an immediate congressional investigation into the reported dumping of rotten food aid, which according to reports was done in batches in Leyte.

“Even if the House (of Representatives) is on recess, a committee probe on the alleged dumping can be launched to shed light on the issue,” Gatchalian said.

“This is not only of national interest as it does not only affect our fellow Filipinos who are victims of the typhoon. This also affects the countries and international institutions that have reached out to us in our time of need. What would donor countries think of the Philippines?” he said.
The lawmaker cited the World Bank (WB)’s recent report on tackling food loss, which showed that a quarter to one-third of all food produced globally is either thrown in the trash or lost while being transported to market.

WB Group president Jim Yong Kim said the amount of food lost or wasted is “shameful,” adding that “millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night.”

The investigation, Gatchalian said, should lead to prosecution of the people responsible for this blunder and improvement in logistical support in times of disasters.

“With the unprecedented volume of donations, DSWD should have planned a better logistical support. Or the more pragmatic approach is to just give away the donations to whoever needs it. With all the aid coming in, we have a moral obligation to feed and help the victims of Yolanda,” he said.

No confirmation
Meanwhile, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, who earlier denied such claims, said Gatchalian failed to identify the specific barangay, municipality or city where the alleged dumping of spoiled food aid took place.

She said there is also no confirmation of reports that are circulating in various social media on alleged waste of food relief assistance due to non-distribution in local government units (LGUs) in Eastern Visayas.

She said the DSWD turned over relief food supplies to LGUs, which in turn should distribute these to their constituents as provided under the Local Government Code.

She said the DSWD also checks any complaint or report regarding relief goods that have not been distributed.

Soliman said the DSWD had set up a text hotline (0920-9463766) where any relief assistance-related complaints can be sent, even as she assured the public that it would be immediately investigated by the DSWD.

She said they would welcome any investigation to be initiated by Congress into alleged massive waste of food relief.

“Give us some details so we can prepare also,” she added. – With Rainier Allan Ronda

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