Millions of Afghans could go hungry as lack of funds forces UN food agency to cut aid

25 May 2006

Due to a critical shortage of funds and resources, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will soon be forced to abandon plans to provide around 2.7 million of the poorest and most vulnerable Afghans with vital food aid to help them through the winter, the agency said today.

Due to a critical shortage of funds and resources, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will soon be forced to abandon plans to provide around 2.7 million of the poorest and most vulnerable Afghans with vital food aid to help them through the winter, the agency said today.

“The last thing WFP wants is to cancel our winter aid programme because this will leave millions of Afghans with no hope of food assistance for months – from the onset of winter until the snows start to melt in spring,” said Anthony Banbury, WFP Regional Director for Asia, who was on a visit to Afghanistan.

“But 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.”

The lack of funds also threatens to halt many of WFP’s regular food aid activities.

Following its similar and highly successful operation last year, WFP is aiming to pre-position 25,000 tonnes of aid in remote areas between August and October – before thousands of isolated and food-insecure communities are completely cut off by Afghanistan’s severe winter snows.

But WFP currently has no resources to carry out the pre-positioning operation and unless substantial sums are donated in the coming weeks, there is little likelihood that sufficient supplies – particularly wheat – will arrive in time.

Due to the serious logistical challenges posed by Afghanistan’s poor infrastructure and mountainous terrain, WFP will only be able to complete the pre-positioning programme if supplies arrive in the country in July and August. To meet this deadline, donations must be received in the next few weeks.

“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,” said Mr. Banbury.

WFP faces an overall shortfall of 49,000 tonnes of food aid until the end of 2006 out of a total requirement of 106,000 tonnes. The agency needs an additional $31 million to fund its activities for the rest of the year.

Security in the war-ravaged country is a concern. “If people are going hungry, if parents cannot feed their children they obviously are going to be dissatisfied with the current situation and they may be tempted or even forced to take extreme measures,” said Mr. Banbury, appealing for funds for the agency “so we can avoid the terrible situation of millions of Afghans facing severe hunger.”

 

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