“I managed to recover MK30,000 ($40) from the cash that was taken from me,” said Chetumale Tenesi, 30, a beneficiary of WFP’s 2017–2018 lean season response in Balaka District, Malawi.
Between December 2017 and March 2018, WFP provided cash transfers — an average of US$ 20 a month per household — to 417,000 highly food insecure people.
Chetumale is a disabled woman and has limited ability to work. Worse still, her maize garden did not yield enough to feed her family following a dry spell and fall army worm infestations that affected most parts of Balaka District. She was therefore enlisted to benefit from WFP’s cash transfers, which brought hope to her family.
“When I went to receive my first cash disbursement, the village headman assigned his counselor and four other people to escort me. I thought he was doing me a favour,” says Chetumale. “I quickly realized their intentions when I was forced to give the group MK 10,000 (US$ 13.6) out of the MK 12,700 (US$ 17) that I received. So, I was left with MK 2,700 (US$ 3.4),” she adds. “When I resisted, they threatened to remove me from the list of beneficiaries, so I obliged.”
“The same happened with the second disbursement. Again, I was forced to give the very same people MK 10,000 (US$ 13.6),” said Chetumale.
Thankfully, WFP has a Complaints and Feedback Mechanism incorporated in all its programmes to ensure the accountability of all stakeholders by providing affected populations with channels to flag abuses. These include include a toll-free hotline, community feedback sessions, help desks and suggestion boxes.
One day, Chetumale shared her ordeal with a friend who tipped her on the platforms where she could channel her complaints.
When she went to collect money for the third time, with the same group of people, she gathered enough courage and approached a help desk. The Protection Officer on duty immediately reprimanded the crooked group, which walked away defiantly.
On that day, Chetumale received MK 30,000 (US$ 40). Upon getting home, however, she was welcomed by the five people who repeated their threats and managed to get away with the entire amount. Fortunately, a week later, the Protection Officer visited her home to follow up on the matter. He filed her complaint and took the necessary steps to retrieve some of the money and make sure the culprits got punished.
“Eventually, the matter was reported to police, and the village headman repaid me the MK 30,000 (US$40) which they snatched from me on the third payout,” she concludes.
Complaints and feedback mechanisms (CFMs) are at the core of WFP Malawi’s Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) approach. WFP and its NGO partners collaborate with the district councils to follow up and resolve complaints, particularly those relating to local chiefs’ interference.
As in Chetumale’s case, following complaints and investigations, disciplinary actions are taken against those chiefs. In 2018, WFP processed 3,420 complaints of which 89 per cent were resolved and closed by the end of the year.