United Nation Development Programme (UNDP) has been accused of distributing rotten food items—including potato, onion, and in some cases, rice—among 2,000 families across Kawkhali Upazila, Rangamati. Local public representatives and administration officials have confirmed the accusations made by several beneficiaries.
According to concerned sources, the UNDP has been tasked with distributing relief aids sanctioned by the government among less fortunate segment of Kawkhali Upazila. In the first stage of the food distribution programme, there was no such controversy. In the second phase, the agency has distributed reliefs items—which included 15 kg rice, 1 kg potato, 2 kg onion, 1 kg lentil, 1 liter Soyabean oil, 2 kg salts, vegetable seeds and masks—across Fatikchari, Betbuniya, Kamalpati and Ghagra unions of the Upazila over the last two days (Wed-Thu).
Shafiqur Rahman, an UP member of Ghagra Union Council, said, “The UNDP has distributed food items among 260 families across five wards of Ghagra Union. All the beneficiaries complained that onion and potato was rotten completely. Most beneficiaries left the rotten potato and onion on the spot. When we asked the authorities, they said the items were rotten because they had been packed 20-25 days ago.” One beneficiary has told this correspondent: “We have come here knowing that foot items would be given free. However, potato and onion were completely rotten. Many people received damaged rice as well.”
Rafikul Islam, a member of Kalampati Union Council, said, “They have provided 5,00 people in my union with foot aids. All the onions and potatoes are rotten and not suitable for consumption. I do not understand why they distributed food items without having tested them before.”
Mithun Marma, the Kawkhali Upazila coordinator of the UNDP food distribution project, also conceded that some people received rotten food because the packaging had been done 20-25 days ago and intended to be distributed in Baghaichari. “There was a delay in preparing the list. That was why some food items were rotten. Nonetheless, we have told the beneficiaries to store the rotten item so we can replace them with fresh food items.” He said that the UNDP distributed the food items originally sanctioned by relevant ministries. “We only have supervised the distribution as representatives of the District Council,” he said, requesting the correspondent to not report on the matter. “Otherwise, they may not replace the food items.”
Omar Faruk, President of Rangamati Durniniti Protirodh Committee, an anti-graft pressure group, has called the incident “irresponsible” on the UNDP’s part. “As an international agency, they have committed an irresponsible act by distributing rotten food items in the name of aid during this Coronavirus pandemic. They should have checked before distributing such items. It is extremely disappointing,” he said.
Kawkhali’s Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Shatarupa Talukdar said that she received the allegations and she herself witnessed the incident. “They have admitted the issue to us and assured that the rotten items would be replaced. The list is being prepared once again,” she said. When asked why there was no pre-verification, she defended the UNDP, saying the agency had distributed staple food among 2000 families in Kawkhali. “Perhaps, there were additional food items and that was why they again sought to distribute them. But since some received rotten potatoes and onions, they said they would replace them,” she added.