United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) faces funding crisis

KABUL, (IRIN) - Food assistance to some 2.7 million vulnerable Afghans this winter, along with many other food programmes for the country, are now under threat, unless more than US $30 million in funds are found soon, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.
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WFP aims to pre-position 25,000 mt of food in remote areas of the country between August and October before thousands of isolated and food-insecure communities are cut off by winter snows.

"If we have to cut our operations this year, thousands of families will go hungry. Such a negative development would undermine the broader stabilisation objectives of the Afghan government and donors," Anthony Banbury, WFP regional director for Asia, said in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

"Unless donors come forward quickly, we will soon be forced to take this tough decision because we have so little wheat in our warehouses and almost none in the pipeline," Banbury elaborated.

But it is not just the agency's winter programme that is under threat - WFP faces an overall shortfall of 49,000 mt of food aid until the end of 2006 out of a total requirement of 106,000 mt for Afghanistan. The UN food agency needs an additional $31 million to fund its activities for the rest of the year, the agency claims.

According to WFP, over 50 percent of children are malnourished in Afghanistan, while one in three people living in rural areas are unable to meet basic nutritional requirements each day. Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, where more than half of the country's nearly 25 million inhabitants live below the poverty line.

A 2003 national vulnerability assessment revealed that that some 3.5 million Afghans were extremely poor and chronically food insecure, while an additional 3 million were seasonally food insecure.

From January to March 2006, WFP has assisted over 1.25 million Afghans with some 16,000 mt of food aid. However, in the worst case scenario, the agency would have to suspend or severely reduce rations for many of its other operations, such as feeding illiterate men and women while they are being taught how to read and write, along with additional programmes targeting widows, war-affected children and tuberculosis patients.

"Major reductions in our operations will not only endanger the health of millions of Afghans, but also the country's fragile recovery and many of the gains made over recent years," Banbury stressed.

The funding crisis has already forced WFP to cut wheat rations to schoolchildren, who bring the grain home to provide food for their families.

"We have cut 200,000 children from that programme and for an additional 250,000 - we have cut the ration in half," Banbury said.


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