WFP announces $285 million plan for Afghanistan relief, reconstruction

WFP announces $285 million plan for Afghanistan relief, reconstruction

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today said it would launch a $285 million programme to provide immediate relief as well as support for the long-term rehabilitation and reconstruction of Afghanistan following three years of crippling drought and 23 years of devastating conflict.

"Millions of Afghans will continue to need assistance from the international community as they emerge from the nightmare of the past two decades," WFP Executive Director Catherine Bertini said in Washington, D.C., where she announced plans for the new operation following her return from a visit to the region last week.

Under the new nine-month operation, due to start 1 April and continue through December, the focus will shift from relief to recovery, with particular emphasis on school feeding for education. An estimated 544,000 tonnes of food will be needed for the programme, the agency said.

WFP is currently assisting about six million people in Afghanistan. Over the past four months, it has sent more than 260,000 tonnes of food to Afghans dependent on food aid and will distribute another 100,000 tonnes until the new operation begins.

Apart from dealing with the immediate emergency, the new WFP operation will also fund a series of rapid impact programmes designed to rebuild parts of the country's basic infrastructure. Under Food-for-Work schemes, WFP will help rehabilitate irrigation systems and reconstruct schools, hospitals, roads and bridges.

The agency will also aid Afghans who have been displaced within the country to go back to their villages in time to plant their crops as well as the hundreds of thousands of refugees in neighbouring countries who are expected to come back home this year.

WFP will also help re-establish the decimated Afghan civil service by providing short-term food rations to employees whose salaries, when paid, make them among the poorest people in the world, with an income of $1 or less per day.

The school feeding projects are set to expand and cover hundreds of thousands of students, half of them girls, to encourage enrolment and decrease dropout rates. To address the shortage of trained teachers, WFP food aid will support the training of teachers. Food assistance will also be given to women for attending non-formal education, particularly technical skills and literacy training.