By Amjad Jamal and Justin Smith
ISLAMABAD—When monsoon flooding in 2012 swept away homes and farmers in the Balochistan region of Pakistan, Manzoor Ahmed was among thousands of people who received food assistance from WFP. Without a monthly ration of four, oil, salt, sugar and beans, families like his probably would have gone hungry.
But they almost did have to go without oil one month, when Manzoor’s uncle discovered that rainwater had leaked into the oil cans. Before, Manzoor would have no other option but to wait for the next food distribution to get another ration.
Instead, he got out his mobile phone and called WFP’s Beneficiary Feedback Desk. “The phone number was printed right on the side of the can. I called to explain what happened and nine days later, received a fresh ration of oil,” he said.
Hundreds of calls
WFP set up the feedback desk in 2010 amid an emergency operation to assist 10 million people hit by a wave of monsoon flooding. Since then, it’s received hundreds of calls from around the country.
“The feedback desk involves a two-way dialogue. It’s about the right to have a say and the duty to respond,” says WFP Pakistan Country Director Jean-Luc Siblot. “We take beneficiary feedback very seriously and try not only investigate but take appropriate action,” he said.
The hotline is completely confidential and gives people who count on WFP food assistance an easy way to get in touch with the agency if something goes wrong. It also provides vital information about the needs of people caught up in emergencies.
When Jamila lost her home during last year’s floods, she took her family to a nearby village where WFP was distributing food. But by the time she arrived, the food distribution had ended and she and her family hadn’t been able to register for the next one.
After hearing an ad on the radio, Jamila called up the beneficiary feedback desk and told an operator about families like hers who had missed the distribution. When WFP returned to the village two weeks later, their names were all on the list of people to receive rations.
“I was relieved that they were able to help us. I don’t know what we would have done if they hadn’t,” she said.
Widespread access to mobile phones in Pakistan has been instrumental to the hotline’s success. It can also be reached by email or post, and several queries have been forwarded from WFP’s page on Facebook.
A radio advertising campaign has helped to get the word out about the hotline among Pakistan’s poorest families, who are often illiterate. Markings on food bags and info points at food distributions are other ways people can find out about it.
The hotline has involved close collaboration with partners like USAID, whose own grievance hotline is run by Transparency International-Pakistan. Operators say that cross-checking feedback from both sources has provided a useful way to verify claims.
Based on the success of the hotline in Pakistan, preparations are already underway to set up similar feedback desks in Afghanistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Kenya.
Above: Programme Assistant Syeda Zahra manages the WFP beneficiary feedback desk