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Armenia: UN agency warns of food aid shortages

Armenia: UN agency warns of food aid shortages

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that by the end of April, it will run out of food for 300,000 beneficiaries in Armenia, where more than half of the population lives below the poverty line.

"Many of these beneficiaries include children and old people who have no source of income,” Muzaffar Choudhery, country director for WFP's operations in Armenia, said. “International food aid, provided by WFP, is their only lifeline. Without it, the nutritional level of the most vulnerable people will dramatically decrease."

WFP has received only $10 million, less than a third of the $32 million requested for its three-year Armenian operation launched in 2001.

Mr. Choudhery thanked Sweden, Switzerland and Japan for contributions earlier this year, adding: "Without this we would not have made it to the end of April." The donations were used to purchase 497 tons of vegetable oil and 898 metric tons of flour.

WFP first began operations in Armenia in1993, and has mobilized a total of 108,344 tons of food assistance to feed an average of 220,000 people a year.

"This is a country virtually without an export economy and, currently, has little prospects for economic growth," Mr. Choudhery said. An estimated 55 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Since independence in 1991, Armenia has been hit by a series of disasters, both economic and natural, following a 1988 earthquake that left over 25,000 people dead and more than 400,000 homeless. It was also affected by the continuing conflict in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, which has cut Armenia off from its neighbours and former trading partners, Turkey and Azerbaijan, WFP said.