UN agency takes over food distribution to Afghan refugees in Pakistan

UN agency takes over food distribution to Afghan refugees in Pakistan

Signalling what may be a major push to streamline humanitarian aid delivery schemes worldwide, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today took over from the UN's refugee agency responsibility for providing food to Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

As part of a test project that could be extended to all areas of the world, WFP will now distribute food to some 288,000 refugees within Pakistan's new Afghan refugee camps, the UN High Commissioner for Refugee's Country Representative, Hasim Utkan said today from Islamabad. Previously, WFP provided the food to UNHCR, which then distributed it to the refugees.

Recalling that working relations between UNHCR and WFP have long been seen internationally as an “effective collaboration between U.N. humanitarian organizations,” Mr. Utkan said. “This new step, under which WFP will handle the final distribution of food aid in Pakistan, is designed to further improve the efficiency of our procedures and could be a model to extend our operations elsewhere.”

According to the agencies, more than 64,500 tons of food is needed by WFP to feed the Afghan refugees and provide supplementary feeding to 23,000 of the most vulnerable Afghan women and children in these new camps. WFP will continue to explore alternate ways improve strategies to reach those in need. The jointly monitored operation, which will include the participation of international and local non-governmental organizations, will be evaluated by year's end.

"UNHCR and WFP are global partners in helping refugees around the world," said WFP's Country Representative, German Valdivia, "and in Pakistan we are trying something new." The pilot project will allow the agencies to help fight hunger and provide shelter for displaced Afghans who fled their country in the face of the international coalition's war on terrorism and the devastating effects of a five year drought. "We call upon the international community for donor contributions to support these poor victims of circumstances beyond their control," he said.