News: Communities in drought-hit Borana reel amid rising aid delivery scandal, officials refute allegations

A drought victim carrying away aid flour in Elwaya IDPs camp, Yabelo, Borana

By Biruk Alemu @Birukalemu21 &

Medihane Ekubamichael @Medihane

Yabelo, Borana – Community members in Yabelo, the administrative capital of the drought-hit Borana zone, in Southern Oromia, are reeling in the midst of allegations on the rising cases of corruption in aid administration that saw a portion of the aid deliveries are taken for personal use by the people in charge of local aid distribution.

Alarmed community members informed team Addis Standard on the ground that they encountered flour branded after Busa Gonofa, a regional relief commission, solely packed for aid purposes were appearing on markets in the outskirts of Yabelo.

Busa Gonofa’s maize sac, picture taken at millhouse/market (Picture: Residents)

Addis Standard journalists accompanied an active aid delivery to Elwoye Ambo (Ambo Tikiti) IDP center by group of artists and prominent individuals and observed that members of the group carried the aid to the IDP center cramped by drought victims. The supplies were fully delivered to the beneficiaries without exposure to middlemen or to looting.

“We have seen that officials in the town want incoming aid delivers to be stored at their warehouses, and similarly, by people identifying themselves as officials in the area”

Shimelis Ababu

“People who came along with aid supplies should deliver them to the IDPs by themselves rather than leaving them in warehouses in the town,” Shimelis Ababu, a prominent Oromo Artist who is a member of the group told Addis Standard. Shimelis said that they [the group] have also learned that aid supplies donated from different volunteers are not being delivered to benefit the drought victims.

“We have seen that officials in the town want incoming aid delivers to be stored at their warehouses, and similarly, by people identifying themselves as officials in the area. We had also been told to unload the aid we brought at their warehouse from where they would be distributing it later,” Shimelis added.

“We came here to reach our people with the aid, but not to just drop it elsewhere,” he said, and revealed that they were pressured to leave the supplies at the officials’ disposal.

“We have also been alerted that drought victims living outside IDP camps were not appropriately given aid,” he said, asserting that if aid supplies keep unloading at zonal warehouses, they won’t be fully delivered to drought victims and because of that sufferings of the people would be made to last longer.

He underlined that people intending to help the drought victims should deliver whatever they are bringing right to the door steps of the people in need.

Group of artists and prominent individuals distributing aid in Elwaya IDPs camp

Another individual who came to Yabelo accompanying an aid delivery from various diaspora community members told Addis Standard that they really wanted to deliver the aid to the beneficiaries of the drought victims, although they had been pressured to deliver their aid to woreda stores.

Residents in Yabelo, who spoke with Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity said that the aid that is being delivered to the people in need who are displaced from drought hit areas are much lesser than that of what had arrived in the zonal and district warehouses.

“Retailers are even asked to buy flour that came through individual and group aid providers”, said one resident, adding that the issue has been lurking in the town, and he believes that most of the aid donations are highly likely to end up into the pockets of corrupted officials in charge of receiving the aid at the warehouses in Yabelo.

A distributor whose name Addis Standard withheld for safety, spoke about a recent common understanding among of the business community in Yabelo not to buy any food supplies intended to be delivered to the drought victims.

In pursuit of answers to the allegations against the administrative structure in the zone, who are facing accusations of stealing aid supplies, Addis Standard asked Roba Dange, Zonal Bureau Head and emergency response coordinator. According to Roba, there is a mechanism to manage and administer incoming aid deliveries and dispatch the supplies under zonal Emergency Operation Center (EOC). He refused the allegations and said that the challenges they are facing is contrary to some aid providers who insist to drop what they brought to Yabelo because their contract with the transporters end in Yabelo.

He further said they have not received any such complaints from anyone, and added that they have a check and balance mechanism put in place when the zonal administration receives aid with a report from the destination where is is dispatched first.

On the allegations that grain sacks labeled as Busa Gonofa circulating in the market and milling center, Roba said that such pictures could be taken from aid areas and could be manipulated.

Similarly, Guyo Kalicha, Mayor of Yabelo town, denounced the allegations and said that his administration has not stored what it received in warehouse. According to him, the administration is supporting people who are displaced and are sheltered in the town, and that the town’s administration is delivering the aid to the people in need accordingly. However, he said he has no information about how the aid is being distributed in the rural areas of the woredas.

In the backdrop of this accusations and denials, Oromia Regional state has issued a statement over the weekend prohibiting raising funds or collecting aid items to support drought victims in the Borana zone without the permission of the regional government. 

According to the statement, aid is only to be administered through the Oromia Busa Gonofa, the regional gov’ts relief commission to prevent aid wastage and irregularities in its distribution, and also make it accessible to the people who are facing problems in a fair and transparent way.

The regional government had previously issued a directive for delivery of aid collected by volunteers individuals, groups and institutions insisting all donations to be channeled hrough the regional relief commission only. 

Despite the alarming reports, the regional government said that it was responding appropriately and providing emergency assistance to the people in need of emergency aid in Borana zone, one of the places harshly hit by the worst drought in 40 years in East Africa. AS

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