Small Portions? Gov’t Clarifies on Challenges in COVID-19 Relief Distribution

Distribution of food

Several videos have been making rounds on social media, showing a couple of angry people rejecting relief support from the government allocated to vulnerable families during the ongoing New Coronavirus lockdown.

“What is this? This can’t feed my family even for one day, they have told me it will cover a whole week. They would rather not given us these meager portions in form of government support,” an unidentified lady is seen lamenting in a video that began circulating on Saturday.

Germaine Mukamurego, a resident of Muhima, in Nyarugenge sector, who has a family of 5, also claimed that she got rice and beans which were merely a kilogram each and a pack of Nootri Family cereal flour, which is supposed to last a week.

The two received the support in the second round of distribution of basic relief items for vulnerable households as part of government efforts to keep them resilient until the lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19 is lifted.

The first round of distribution took place on March 28 while the second round happened on Saturday April 4. The beneficiaries accused local leaders of diverting the support which is drawn out of the National Strategic Reserves for their own use or simply not giving them enough.

The videos have become easy armour for anti-Rwandan government groups which are using them to discredit the government initiative to support vulnerable households.

But the Minister of Local Government Prof. Anasatse Shyaka believes the government programme to distribute relief support in all 1, 158 villages in the City of Kigali has been largely successful.

“We distributed food and other relief items in all 1, 158 villages in the City of Kigali. Out of these, we counted 11 villages where the distribution was not done well. That is about 1 percent. We cannot focus on the 1 percent and forget about the 99 percent success story,”

“We admit that in some parts the distribution process didn’t go well. We saw that in Kigarama, some parts of Nyamirambo, Rusororo and Ndera in Gasabo district but that is just 1 percent which we need to correct but, the distribution exercise was successful,” Prof. Shyaka told Journalists.

The Minister of Local Government said that the local leaders did their best to ensure that all vulnerable households get something, adding that places where the distribution did not go well were identified and this will be corrected in the next round.

“We know these places, we went there and assessed the situation and we believe that as we plan to go into the third round of distribution, these few mistakes will be corrected,” Prof. Shyaka said, adding that local leader were overwhelmed in some cases.

He said the next round will be strictly distributed on a door-to-door basis by joint local committees to avoid confusion or cases where people have to come to a local government office or public places like schools to get the items.

“In some cases, local leaders forgot to add some households on the list only for the said households to turn up among those that need to be supported, which called for equitable distribution of what was readily available,”

“But one or two videos circulating on social media should not overshadow the achievements of this initiative. We have successfully distributed relief items in over 20, 000 households and they are going through this difficult period without any challenges,” Prof. Shyaka said. 

He said that people have come together to join hands to support families that need support, from the private sector to individuals and their efforts should not be undermined because everyone is doing their best.

Prof. Shyaka said that government support should not be misinterpreted to assume that households will get whatever they need from the government.

He said that what is distributed is calculated basing on international standards, factoring in what basic food items people need, calculated basing on the calories and the number of people in the household.

“We have distributed relief items based on known international standards. We have done so twice in just over a week. This is not like an open market where people come and pick whatever they want in their preferred amounts and go,”

“For the last two occasions, we gave people food items for 3 days, based on common standards. If a human being needs 2, 000 calories a day, we put together a package that covers 6, 000 calories per person, that is for 3 days and we give them more in another 3 days,” he added.

He explained that government support is not a windfall but rather relief support and it is measured based on the members of each household. Prof. Shyaka said that it is possible that people expected more than what they get, hence the dissatisfaction in some cases.

He condemned some of the people who appeared in videos throwing away some of the relief materials out of anger, saying that such acts are unacceptable.

“The government support is relief to see you through the difficult times but it will not address all your needs. This is for emergency purposes and should be seen as such. If there is more, the government will provide but for now, we want to ensure that people have what to eat in the short term,” he said.

“I will emphasize that a video of one woman from Mumena complaining cannot take away the gains of this relief distribution programme. There are many more positive stories that have not been paid attention to. Let us not be diverted from our cause,” he added.

In the meantime, members of the Private Sector have continued to raise more support to go into the National Strategic Reserves, raised over Rwf500 million and items, including foodstuffs worth millions of francs.




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