DCs prefer cash distribution instead of food items
The Finance Division has approved the allocation of Tk1,720 crore to provide food aid to 12.5 million vulnerable households across Bangladesh during the nationwide lockdown extended till April 21 to contain transmission of Covid-19.
From the fund, the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief has already sent Tk572 crore to 64 district administrations to buy food items for the needy families. However, the distribution was suspended after the district deputy commissioners raised concerns.
People who are benefitting from other social safety net programs, such as the Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF), Vulnerable Group Development (VGDL), and Open Market Sale (OMS) initiatives, will not be eligible for the lockdown food aid, officials said.
According to the relief distribution plan, the lockdown food aid funds are supposed to be used to provide each vulnerable household with 10kg rice, 4kg potatoes, 1kg lentils, 1kg salt and 1 litre soybean oil and baby food bought from local markets at a maximum cost of Tk855.
The relief was available through the offices of Upazila Nirbahi Officers (UNOs) at all upazilas with recommendations from local public representatives.
However, the distribution of the food aid has temporarily been suspended, as deputy commissioners have suggested distributing cash instead.
Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Secretary Md Mohsin yesterday said: “We have already disbursed Tk572 Crore to the districts and upazilas to distribute food items to vulnerable people. However, the deputy commissioners of many districts at a recent meeting urged us to provide cash relief since the procurement of food items creates various problems.
“Food procurement takes time and may create the scope for misappropriation of relief materials. We have halted the relief distribution for now.”
On Friday, State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain said that the government would enforce a strict lockdown for a week from April 14 to April 21, when the people would not be allowed outdoors.
“After measuring the Covid-19 infection rate, the lockdown may be extended,” he added.
Md Mohsin said: “The relief allocation may be increased if the lockdown is extended past April 21.”
Last year, as many as 116 public representatives, including union parishad chairmen and members, were suspended over misappropriation of relief materials and funds.