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WFP Country Director Visits Somaliland
Hargeysa, Somaliland, 9 February 2008 (SL Times) - The World Food Program country Director for Somaliland/Somalia, Mr Peter Goossens arrived Thursday in Hargeysa from Nairobi to finalise his organisation's 2008/09 work program and project commitments with the government, in particular, the ministry of Planning and Coordination.
Mr Goossens held a press conference on Thursday afternoon at WFP headquarters in Hargeysa and briefly described the purpose of his visit and the outcome of his meetings with the government.
“The purpose of my visit was to see how things are progressing in Somaliland, in particular, WFP office in Hargeysa and talk to the staff and secondly, to talk to the ministry of Planning, with the minister of Planning, to discuss a couple of issues which have been building up since last year that we needed to make some decisions about these and how to go forward from there. We talked to the minister of Education and had a pleasant meeting with the president. It all went well, it was a good visit,” said the WFP country Director, Peter Goossens.
Mr Goossens pointed out that “WFP programs in Somaliland are mainly to do with ‘Food for Work’ projects and currently there is a backlog of 1,600 odd project proposals waiting to be appraised and that some sort of solution was needed to erase this backlog”.
“The food for work program is very successful. Food for work are the type of activities where communities that want to build a road or build a dam or do other activities useful for the community organise themselves into self-help groups and work on, say like a road to a village needs repairing and the villagers repair the road by providing food for those who work and do the repairs. And we provide the villagers with the food. But we found ourselves with an enormous amount of back log of proposals for these types of projects in the country. The number of these proposals is as high as 1,600 to 1,700 proposals, that are currently waiting for the implementation phases. That is too many. It would be very difficult to implement them and we took some decisions with the ministry of Planning about how to resolve this and also how to ensure that we don’t continue to have this problem again,” stressed Mr Goossens.
The WFP country Director, told reporters that currently there is 105 schools in Somaliland who participate in this type of program. The ministry of Education coordinates with WFP the ‘Food for Education’ projects devised for schools.
Mr Goossens said that the WFP and the ministry of Education have seen a tremendous increase of school kids enrolling in schools who offer this program.
“Also the drop out rate of school kids has gone down with schools that benefit from this program. The program provides meals for poor school kids who cannot afford to eat,” the WFP head of Somaliland/Somalia office told reporters at WFP head office in Hargeysa.
In relation to the cause of the current progress and the success of WFP programs in Somaliland, Goossens replied that “this was mainly to do with the ministry of Planning working in a much better way now than it did in the past.”
The WFP, country Director was asked ‘whether this progress was due to the current minister of Planning, Dr Ali Abdi Ibrahim?’
Mr Goossens replied, “yes, you can say that and also WFP. We also are working in much better way now then in the past and the coordination with the ministry is much better, so both parties can equally be proud of the progress we have made.”
Mr Goossens added: “All the issues have been sorted out with the ministries”.
“We met the president and had discussed with him all the issues that were at stake and the agreements made with the ministry of Planning and he was very content with our progress”, he concluded.
The following are excerpts from the press interview with Mr Goossens:
Q: Do you feel encouraged by the success of the plastic-bags collection and recycling project?
A: Yes, I’m well aware of the success of this program, which we are very pleased with and the way it’s been progressing. We will continue to support this program and extend it to other cities, soon.
Q: Which ministry is working with you on this program?
A: It’s under the ministry of planning.
Q: Because of its success rate, are you going to extend it to other ‘food for work’ areas, a good example would be for small road works where the local authority could provide ‘food for work’ for people to fill in the pot holes and would also be good for local employment?
A: All these are possibilities, but what we also discussed with the ministry of Planning, is that we have to be realistic. We have certain amount of food available. It’s not a lot, and we are distributing 1,200 tons of food every month. This is 1,200 million kg of food very month. That is a good [large] number. But, it is limited; we can only do so much with food. You cannot support schools and do all these ‘food for work’ activities and the plastic bags and roads works as well. You have to make choices. And part of the discussions with the ministry of Planning, also, with the president was about the need, for us, but also for the government of Somaliland to prioritise projects first. All these things are important. Nobody is saying that building a dam somewhere in a village is not important, of course it’s important. But you have to make some decisions about what to do first and then what to do second. I think we all agree on the fact that the need for prioritisation is a factor in all this. So once we work away the back log of proposals that we currently have, then we will decide and sit round the table and jointly decide what projects need prioritisation, so that we have a better feeling of where to spend the 1,200 metric tons of food, how much we will use for schools, roads and plastic bags, etc. What we are seeing, happening, is that there is so much demand for these types of activities that there is just no way that you can fit that within the 1,200 mt of food.
Q: Is it part of your plan to increase the ‘Food for Education’ given its rate of success?
A: Yes, by the way we have already plans to increase the food for education this year. And we will be significantly increasing the number of schools this year. We currently have 105 schools in the food for education program and we have plans to increase up to 200 by early next year. So that is the situation we have, if you give more food for schools then you will have to give less for other food for work programs, so this is why we and the ministry of planning think it is the time to prioritise, and have agreed to reach a decision and make prioritisation for this program.
Q: Who makes the decision of prioritisation, is it the government who chooses which projects get food for work or is it you who makes this decision or is it a joint decision?
A: We do that jointly, we want to have a say in this of course. We think it’s important that the government also has a decision in it. So it’s a 50-50 thing.
Q: This is your second visit to S/land. What has changed since your last visit?
A: I am happy with what I have seen in this visit. I think the program is going well, I’ve seen real progress between my last visit last year and this visit. We are working in a much better coordinated fashion than we used to in the past. We have much more contacts and much more coordination. And as I said, I am very pleased with this and very happy with the progress I have seen so far. And of course it can always be better.
Q: Can we attribute this progress to the ministry of Planning. In other words, is it due to the efforts of the minister of Planning who is responsible for this progress?
A: Yes, I believe, the minister of Planning, is chiefly responsible for this progress, & WFP, too. We also are working in a much better way now then in the past, and the coordination with the ministry is much better, so both parties can equally be proud of the progress we have made.
Source: Somaliland Times