From stealing aid to biased distribution lists, complaints about National Aid Program mount

Civil society activists and residents in some provinces complain about distribution from the National Aid Program. According to them, the list of those in need of assistance is not transparent and fair, and in some cases, local council officials have selected people close to them to receive assistance. On the other hand, the large size of families in rural areas has made it impossible for this program to have a significant impact on meeting the food needs of the people. Meanwhile, according to reports, part of the program aid was stolen by unknown individuals in various parts of the country. The theft of 314,000 Afghanis from the National Aid Program in Badakhshan and the armed robbery of a car in Logar have raised concerns about the aid’s implementation. The Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, while acknowledging the misuse of aid in some cases, states that the donations were returned in cooperation with the people. The ministry has a helpline which can be reached by calling 3330 to register complaints about the distribution of aid for a quick review. To date, nearly 200,000 families in 34 provinces have benefited from the National Aid Program.

At the time of the coronavirus outbreak, the government prepared nearly $280 million to provide food to those in need. Funded by the World Bank, food and other items, including flour, rice, oil, beans, chickpeas, and soap, were distributed. According to the plan, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development was responsible for implementing the program at the village level, with people’s councils managing the process at the local level. The overall management of this process was entrusted to the First Vice President. In the first phase of this program, about 1.68 million families were eligible and expected to receive assistance. As many as 2.5 million families would benefit from the National Aid Program in the second phase. Although the distribution of aid has begun and nearly 200,000 families have received it, criticism and complaints about how the aid was distributed have risen in recent days.

Due to biased lists, aid does not reach worthy recipients

Civil society activists in some provinces say that the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development did not involve them in the distribution of the National Aid Program and has not consulted with activists while making the list of families. Qadir Mohammadi, a civil activist in Parwan province, told 8 Subh on Saturday, January 9, that the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development did not consult with civil society when preparing the list of families in need, and that most families in need were not included. He added that aid in Parwan province was not distributed fairly to needy families. According to Mohammadi, hundreds of families need assistance due to the floods this year, and the government should have listed these families in consultation with members of civil society. Qadir Mohammadi said that the authorities did not pay attention to the needy families when distributing the aid and that the distribution was carried out in a “non-transparent” way. A few months ago, Parwan province suffered flooding, which caused heavy casualties and financial losses to citizens.

Omid Jibran, a civil activist in Kunduz, also said that civil society activists were not consulted in compiling the list of poor families and that the organization was not involved in identifying these families. According to him, there are families on the list of the needy who know or are related to the person making the list. Jibran states that donations to the National Aid Program are not distributed to needy families, and those involved in the program distribute the donations to their relatives and families that are well-off. “People who are in need are not helped. The program helps those who already have good resources and facilities,” he said.

Sources in Logar province also report that the aid in this province was not distributed to the needy. Media activist Matiullah Sarwar told 8 Subh that although the National Aid Program has currently only been implemented in the capital of Logar province, many residents in the province have complained about the lack of transparency in preparing the list of the needy. He added that the authorities in the local councils put their relatives on the lists of recipients, and thus, leaving out people in genuine need of aid. According to him, some needy families in the village of Dehmoghulan, part of the provincial capital, protested against the method of list preparation and warned that if necessary, they were even willing to march. Mr. Sarwar added that the authorities have acknowledged problems in this regard, and have given instructions that the needy should be prioritized in the list.

The National Aid Program not able to feed some people in need

Sources in some provinces say that the National Aid Program is not adequately tailored to the number of needy families, and that aid packages have failed to meet the food requirements of some families for more than a week. An 8 Subh correspondent from Paktia reported that some families in the province have about 20 members and the aid does not even meet their weekly food needs. The correspondent added that aid was allocated based on “households”, even though some households contain several families. Paktia residents, in an interview with 8 Subh, called the aid “insufficient.” According to them, the aid distributed was improperly allocated not taking the number of people in need into account. Thus, in some cases, material allocated for 50 people was distributed to more than 100 people.

Members of the House of Representatives state that they have not overseen the implementation of the aid distribution process due to the House’s opposition to the National Aid Program. Ruqayya Nayil, a member of the House of Representatives, told 8 Subh that members of the House of Representatives are not currently monitoring the process. However, she did not consider the distribution of aid as effective and said that the distribution of food packages had not cured the pain of poor families. Ms. Nayil said, “This program is not effective. Help does not reach needy families. Even if it is distributed by the people’s councils, it will lead to the misappropriation of aid.” The member of the House of Representatives pointed out that the government should employ these families instead of distributing food packages. According to her, instead of implementing this plan, the government could have undertaken development programs in the provinces to create jobs and growth there.

Aid fell into the hands of thieves before reaching the program

Meanwhile, reports indicate that the program budget was stolen in some provinces. Local officials in Badakhshan told 8 Subh on Saturday, January 9, that 314,000 Afghanis were “stolen” from the national aid budget in the village of Fitur in Badakhshan’s Wakhan district. According to officials, the money was handed over to the village council chairperson and the village treasurer, who later reported to the government that armed robbers stole the national aid budget overnight. Nik Mohammad Nazari, the spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan, told 8 Subh that the budget for the national assistance program was stolen the previous night and that the police had been instructed to investigate the matter. Zabihullah Nazari, the police chief of Ishkashim district, also said that 314,000 Afghanis was stolen from the national aid budget, which had been handed over to the council chairperson and treasurer, in the village of Fitur in Wakhan district. After visiting the village of Fitur to investigate the matter, he said that the head of the council and the treasurer had been arrested and handed over to the Wakhan district police command.

Meanwhile, sources in Logar province say that a vehicle belonging to the National Aid Program in the Klangar area was robbed by gunmen from the provincial capital. Matiullah Sarwar said the vehicle was taken to an unknown location by gunmen on Saturday morning, January 9, while crossing the Kabul-Logar public road. Residents said unknown gunmen were involved in the robbery. However, no individual or group has claimed responsibility. The Klangar area of Logar is one of the areas where local police are active and the Taliban have little access to it.

Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development: Report problems in the National Aid Program to “3330”

Meanwhile, Fraidon Azhand, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, denied allegations by civil society organizations that they had not been consulted. He told 8 Subh that the ministry had called on civil society organizations directly, in person and online, before the start of the National Aid Program. He added that civil society organizations can still monitor the process. Azhand noted that the ministry and relevant departments had kept the people informed of the aid distribution. “On a daily basis, we publish the distribution of materials and their geographical location on social media pages and related institutions to keep people informed,” he said.

According to Mr. Azhand, so far, food packages had been distributed in 106 districts, 1,442 villages, and 193,000 families. The spokesperson estimated the value of the aid distributed at 690 million Afghanis. Later, the press office of Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president, said that the process of distributing food aid packages under the name of the National Aid Program had been accelerated and expanded. Amrullah Saleh’s press office said in a tweet that food aid packages were distributed to 196,117 families so far, and would continue until benefiting 90% of Afghanistan’s population.

Meanwhile, Fraidon Azhand acknowledged that the distribution of aid was unfair in some areas. According to him, the ministry received a report from the east of the country that one of the village elders had taken 10 food aid packages to his house. Mr. Azhand further added that the aid was taken back from this person in cooperation with the local people. He said that the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development has provided the people with the “3330” helpline and that they can call this number and register any complaints they may have during the distribution. He assured that the ministry would address the problem as soon as possible

It is worth mentioning that the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, after a five-week delay and despite the opposition of the House of Representatives, started the process of implementing the National Aid Program. The ministry announced on December 9 that it had expanded the program in Nangarhar province and that the process of distributing aid to other provinces had begun. The government has earmarked $280 million to implement the program. Nearly five million families are expected to be covered by this program.