Food aid cut-off looms for 700,000 hungry Cambodians due to funding shortfall – UN
More than 700,000 hungry Cambodians, mostly young children and HIV/AIDS and TB patients, will start going without essential food next month, and the situation is likely to worsen unless millions of dollars in new donations are received soon, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.
“Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries, and these people rely on WFP’s help to keep them coming to school and getting HIV and TB treatment,” WFP Executive
Director James Morris said, underscoring the seriousness of a funding crisis that has already forced the agency to reduce rations and cut the numbers of those receiving aid.
“We are very grateful to donors for generously supporting this operation thus far, but the money is now running out,” he added, noting that those affected include some 650,000 children on school feeding programmes, as well as 70,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and 18,000 TB patients.
“Food and nutrition are an essential part of the package of care for people receiving treatment for HIV and TB,” Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Executive
Director Peter Piot said. “Ration cuts jeopardize the effectiveness of these critical interventions.”
What is especially dangerous from a health perspective is the development of drug-resistant variants of TB among patients who do not complete their treatment, with food aid a major incentive in drawing them to health posts and clinics to receive a full course of treatment.
Those who fail to complete the course may well become incubators for new types of TB that threaten society at large. Treatment of such cases, moreover, can cost up to 100 times as much as the original medication.
Since October 2006, a funding shortage has forced WFP to progressively reduce rations, thereby cutting the number of Cambodians eligible for aid, and delaying the distribution of food to those who need it the most. WFP now needs at least $10 million to distribute some 18,000 metric tons of food to 1.1 million Cambodians until July 2007.
Donor support for the agency’s programme in Cambodia has diminished alarmingly since 2005. “Hundreds of thousands of children in Cambodia count on the nutritious meal provided to them by the World Food Programme,” WFP Country Director Thomas Keusters said. “We want to restore this needed food assistance for children, for the very sick, and for the desperately poor, but we can only do this with the immediate and valued support of the international community.”
According to the 2006 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Cambodia is one of the 12 “hunger hot spot” countries listed as “extremely alarming,” and with nearly 35 per cent of its people living below the poverty line, it is classified as a least developed and low-income, food-deficit country.
High population growth, low agricultural productivity and poor access to health services continue to hamper progress in human development and the country ranks 129th out of 177 countries in the 2006 UN Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Index.