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Food aid continuing

Food aid continuing

The Editor,

I refer to your article "Preah Vihear: Northern Isolation"

(Phnom Penh Post July 14 - 27) and wish to provide the following

comments.

World Food Program (WFP) has never abandoned Preah Vihear as

claimed. As among the only two international agencies, alongside AICF, providing

aid to Preah Vihear, WFP is continuing to do our best to deliver food assistance

there. It is true that transport of food to Preah Vihear has been interrupted a

number of times this year. However, negotiations with transporters to take food

up to Preah Vihear is ongoing and possibilities for reverting to local purchases

of rice is also under consideration. It should be noted that in 1994, road

transport was even more difficult than this year, and WFP had locally purchased

a total of 900 mt of rice in Preah Vihear for collaborative activities with

AICF.

Unfortunately your article appears to suggest that WFP has

simplistically abandoned Preah Vihear due to security problems. WFP, in

collaboration with the Cambodian Red Cross, delivers assistance to over 16

provinces of Cambodia, targeting many remote communes where no other

international or national agencies operate due to security reasons. We have

always tried our utmost to access these areas and often have to make many

attempts at high cost and risk before getting through. Preah Vihear is no

exception and we will continue to try our best to deliver assistance to this

province.

- Philippe Borel, WFP Country Director.

The Editor,

In a story published in the Phnom Penh Post 14 July, several aspects of

Action Internationale Contre la Faim (AICF) work in Preah Vihear are called into

question. This version does not square with reality.

AICF has been

present in the province since 1993 with health and irrigation programs. The

situation in Preah Vihear has prompted us to carry out the World Food Programme

(WFP) projects since 1993; in 1995, AICF has distributd 80 tonnes of rice.

Surveys have been sent to account on these activities and the quality of the

NGO's work.

Denis Girard never claimed to be mad, even though some say

this in Phnom Penh. It is enough to go on site and assess the security measures

taken: an evacuation plan with the full knowledge of provincial and military

authorities, and daily and permanent radio stand-by. We also use the UNO urgency

frequencies.

AICF has received funding from ECHO (European Community

Humanitarian Office) for food distributions. In our concern for clarity, we

stopped our collaboration with WFP by mutual agreement. It is doubtless it will

be for a limited time. With funding from ECHO, we have carried out a Food For

Work program for six months with 1,700 tonnes of rice given to four provinces.

AICF did not "ditch" WFP. On the contrary, we appreciate its presence and a

close collaboration exists in the four provinces where we are working (Prey

Veng, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear). AICF deals specifically

with families and villages, whereas WFP, thanks to its more numerous operational

capacities, is able to carry out larger scale programs up to the provincial

level.

"AICF supervises the project less strictly than would WFP" -

that's absolutely wrong. Supervision criteria, such as selection of

beneficiaries, carrying out of work, follow up at work sites and food

distribution, are in operation. Moreover, contrary to the Post article, rice

given for work done fits with International Work Office studies - we don't give

"ten times more" than WFP.

Projects are assessed by an ECHO official

from Brussels, Bruno Maes, and by AICF official Brigitte Deladoeille. At the end

of any program, a narrative and financial survey is published for the benefit of

the backers and the local partners. AICF works with the European Union and with

USAID and is therefore subject to operational and financial audits from both

organizations.

Your article implies that "we understand that food is

distributed on the local market". Regular market visits allow us to follow the

distributed foodstuffs If we can accept a small part of the food be bartered on

the market (it allows our beneficiaries to vary their diet), too much bartered

food would provoke a radical modification of our strategy and we would stop

distributions.

To date, AICF has donated 235,407 tonnes of rice in Preah

Vihear for 21,125 people. We deplore the use of several sentences in the article

out of context. The paper underlines the "competition" between WFP and AICF -

that does not fit with reality. In a lot of countries, such as Cambodia, AICF

depends on UN agencies for safety and funding. We are congratulating ourselves

for the confident relations and the excellent quality of past achievements.

- Ludovic Bourbe, Chef de Mission, AICF, Phnom Penh. (Translated from

French)

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