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Critical funding shortfall threatens UN food lifeline for 500,000 Zambians

Critical funding shortfall threatens UN food lifeline for 500,000 Zambians

Flooded area in Zambia
Because of a critical shortage of funds, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today it would be forced to cut the vital food aid rations it currently provides to around 500,000 of the most vulnerable people in Zambia over the coming weeks.

WFP needs $29 million to fund its operations across the Central African country until the end of the year, but with food stocks dwindling, it has already begun reducing some rations and is planning for a series of massive cuts to its aid operations. It is calling for cash donations so that food can be bought in Zambia and the region.

“WFP’s resources are rapidly running out,” agency Country Director David Stevenson said today. “In March or April we will be forced to stop distributing food to some of the most disadvantaged people in Zambia, such as orphans and patients undergoing treatment for AIDS.

“Tens of thousands of Zambians are now much healthier and more productive thanks to our food aid but without continued assistance, their lives and livelihoods will once again be put at risk,” he added.

The crisis is looming at a time when widespread flooding threatens to increase the number of people in need of food assistance. “WFP is committed to helping Zambians hit by natural disasters but our resources cannot cover our current programmes let alone the increased demand from flood victims,” Mr. Stevenson said. “Obviously the widespread flooding across the region is further stretching donor funds and assistance for the needy is crucial.”

Without new contributions, WFP will stop distributing nutritious daily meals in schools to over 100,000 orphans and vulnerable children in March, undermining attempts to keep them in school and jeopardizing their nutritional health. At the same time, it will stop providing food to 130,000 people in needy households headed by children, widows or grandparents as well as 28,000 households enrolled in livelihood support activities.

In addition, WFP will halt critical food aid in April to 6,000 HIV/AIDS patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and their family members as well as to 9,500 chronically ill people receiving home-based care, many of whom are also on ART.

“It is staggering that essential food aid for people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS might have to be cut just when so much is being done by the Zambian government and others in the fight against the pandemic,” Mr. Stevenson said. “With extra funds, WFP can continue to support thousands of ART patients, giving them and their families a chance of a healthier and brighter future.”

On a more positive note today, WFP said it would be able to help millions of vulnerable and chronically needy people in 13 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America thanks to a $20.8 million contribution from the Japanese Government, with two-thirds of the package earmarked for agency social protection programmes in nine African countries.