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PA accused of distributing inferior quality bread to the poor

Sept. 27, 2009 3:34 P.M. (Updated: Sept. 29, 2009 2:36 P.M.)
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Ordinary Palestinians are complaining that the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) Ministry of Social Affairs is distributing inferior quality pita bread to needy families.

After receiving several complaints of inedible bread from families in the West Bank, Ma’an spoke with shop owners who are tasked with delivering the bread to the public. Most of the merchants confirmed that the food-aid bread is completely different from normal pita found in bakeries.

Asked why this bread could be different, shop owners said they believed the bread was made from expired or otherwise poor quality flour.

They added that the PA began distributing this type of bread to needy families about two months ago. They reported that dozens of families had stopped collecting their bread allowance because children refused to eat it or because it simply tasted bad. Other families told shop owners they used that bread to feed animals, or gave it to even more desperately poor families.

Responding to Ma’an’s questions, some of the families said they originally thought the bread tasted bad because they had arrived at the shops late and did not get it fresh. The same families found that the bread tasted bad even when they arrived early to obtain fresh pita.

In a statement, the Ministry of Social Affairs said it is investigating whether quality standards are being violated. The statement explained that any comment or criticism from Palestinian citizens and organizations would be taken seriously and investigated.

“Previously, the ministry refused to distribute flour to the poor when it was proved to be unfit,” the statement read asserting that the ministry is cautious about the services provided to needy families. Any aid which does not meet the ministry’s standards will not be accepted, or distributed, the statement asserted.

Questions remain, however, about the source of the problem. Is it the flour? Is it the Ministry of Social Affairs? Is it the merchants who import the flour? Is it the bakeries? Is there not an official mechanism to monitor bakeries and make sure the material they use meets quality standards?

The question in the minds of many Palestinians is this: Would PA officials feed the same bread to their own children?
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