Food aid glitches – Call for proper assessment tools

People line up to receive their food rations distributed by government officials at Caubati area in Nasinu on Monday, May 17, 2021. Picture: JONACANI LALAKOBAU

Government’s 161 food ration assistance line was not the best way to assist Fijians in need because it did not have the proper needs assessment tools.

This, according to humanitarian response worker Esita Karanavatu.

She said Government should consider working with civil society organisations (CSOs) and non-government organisations (NGOs) to ensure food rations and assistance reached those in desperate need.

“As someone who has been in the frontline of humanitarian work and being inundated with requests for assistance on a daily basis from the marginalised, all of whom we have profiled and discovered to genuinely need this intervention, there needs to be some course of action that can bridge that gap in response work,” Ms Karanavatu said.

She said CSOs and NGOs would have information and data on those on the ground that were in desperate need.

“Those who genuinely qualify for it need to get the assistance and that cannot be properly assessed by dialing 161.

“The number 161 does not have the sort of tools needed in the needs assessment.

“It is just a number that anyone can call so someone who missed out when they call that number might need it more than the one whose application went through.

“If we can work together and collaborate in terms of referrals where we provide them with genuine cases and the profiles of families who need it on the ground, there will not be so many disputes such as the ones we have been seeing online.”

She said the “do no harm” principle where ample time was given to community leaders to collate information of families who needed assistance and passed on to Government needed to be exercised during this period.

“That avoids double-dipping and will not create disputes in communities because there is a fair distribution of food rations to the marginalised and disadvantaged.”

Kelera Dimaimuri, another humanitarian worker, echoed similar sentiments.

She said she offered assistance on social media after she noticed the requests from Fijians in need of food rations.

Ms Dimaimuri said she offered to send emails on behalf of those who needed food rations and received a lot of requests online.

“The Government should involve CSOs and NGOs and also get the National Disaster Management Office to do the distribution,” she said.

“They have the data.”

More Stories