Emergency UN aid reaches 400,000 Afghans hit by rising food prices

14 April 2008
WFP food distribution for Afghans

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed assistance to some 400,000 Afghans hit by soaring wheat prices, but warned that the most vulnerable will continue to need aid for a while as the record high prices show no sign of abating.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has distributed assistance to some 400,000 Afghans hit by soaring wheat prices, but warned that the most vulnerable will continue to need aid for a while as the record high prices show no sign of abating.

In the past few weeks, the agency has handed out about 30,000 tons of food in Kabul, as well as in the east and south of the country, WFP Country Representative Rick Corsino told reporters in the capital today. It expects to finish the first round of distributions in Kabul by next Sunday.

In January, the UN and the Afghan Government appealed for more than $80 million to help over 2.5 million people facing food shortages due to the soaring price of wheat, the most important food crop in the country.

Mr. Corsino announced that nearly all of the $78 million requested for food has been provided by 10 donors – United States, Canada, Denmark, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), Germany, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway.

“I am really happy to be able to report today that the appeal has essentially been fully resourced,” Mr. Corsino said.

While the appeal has gone well, the concern now is what happens in a few months’ time. “Very few people think that the factors that came into play pushing the price of wheat up to record highs in the early part of this year are going to disappear,” he stated.

“What this means of course is that those people most affected by the higher prices are unlikely to get too much relief,” he added.

While there is usually a seasonal reduction in the price of wheat when the harvests arrive both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mr. Corsino said he does not expect it to be such that the prices will return to what they were a few years ago.

Another concern is how productive Afghanistan’s cereals crop will be this year. “It is still too early to tell, but there has been some concern raised both by the UN and the Government that the crop this year may not be as good as expected,” he noted.

“So together, the Government and the UN continue to watch that and continue to look at interventions that may be necessary in the short, in the medium and in the longer term to assist Afghans who have been hurt by the higher food prices and who potentially might be harmed by a poorer crop this year.”

Several senior UN officials have called for urgent measures to tackle the global food price crisis, which threatens to hit the world’s poor the hardest and to lead to increased tensions and unrest.

The past few weeks have witnessed violent protests over the increased costs of wheat, maize and rice in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Senegal, Morocco and, most recently, in Haiti, where several people have died in riots.

 

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