UN in race against time to provide food for 600,000 Afghans before winter cuts them off
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is racing against the clock to deliver food for some 600,000 impoverished Afghans who will be cut off once winter’s bitter cold arrives and heavy snows set in, while at the same time seeking urgent donations now to prevent a shortfall with the approach of next spring.
“Winter is a brutal time in Afghanistan. Hundreds of villages that are remote today will be impossible to reach within the coming weeks,” WFP country representative Rick Corsino said in Kabul, the capital, today.
“Right now our focus is on positioning food in these areas, as well as moving forward with our drought relief efforts in more readily accessible areas.”
WFP is already helping victims of severe floods in other areas of the country, especially the west, northwest and far east.
With winter approaching, 21,000 metric tons of food, including wheat, beans, oil and salt, need to be positioned and then distributed to 600,000 vulnerable people in over half the provinces of the strife-torn country. Increased insecurity due to the continuing conflict exacerbates the difficulties already posed by bad weather.
WFP has already delivered 16,000 tons, or all of its planned winterization aid to the provinces of Badakshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Ghor, Wardak, and Nangarhar, and more than 80 per cent to Bamyan and Badghis but poor road conditions, worsened by early snows and heightened insecurity along some key road corridors, have hampered deliveries to thousands of people at higher elevations.
“In the higher passes roads are barely wide enough to allow a single truck to move. So when a vehicle breaks down, or cannot progress because of snow or mud, traffic in both directions can be halted for several hours, or even longer,” Mr. Corsino said. “Thousands of people are in need of our assistance. We have to reach them before winter does – and that means within the next few weeks.”
The “very timely and generous” donor response has ensured there is enough food to get the beneficiaries through the winter, but because of the very long lead time between confirmation of a contribution and distribution of food to a hungry person, WFP will face shortfalls in all commodities by next March, Mr. Corsino stressed.
Further donations are urgently needed now to avoid such shortfalls, including 6,000 tons of fortified biscuits to enable the school meals programme to commence at the start of the new school year in March.