Donors pledge US$31 million in food aid
KABUL, 13 February 2008 (IRIN) – The USA, Canada and Denmark have contributed US$31 million to a joint UN and government appeal to provide a temporary safety net for 2.55 million vulnerable Afghans facing food-insecurity, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said.
“The US has confirmed [its] contribution of 30,000 metric tonnes [mt] of wheat worth $19 million, Canada has confirmed $10.1 million and Denmark has confirmed $2 million,” WFP country representative Rick Corsino told IRIN on 13 February.
Australia, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, Switzerland and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) are also expected to contribute over $14 million to the joint appeal in the near future, Corsino said.
A dramatic increase in staple food prices and winter-related problems such as road blockages have pushed 1.41 million Afghans in rural areas and 1.14 million in urban areas into high risk food-insecurity, and they are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, UN agencies and the Afghan government say.
The government of Afghanistan and the UN launched a Joint Appeal for The Humanitarian Consequences of the Rise in Food Prices on 24 January asking donors to provide about $80 million for a five-month (February-June 2008) humanitarian intervention.
WFP will use over 90 percent of the requested $80 million to distribute 88,000 mt of mixed food items to most vulnerable communities in this period. This will be in addition to WFP’s over 180,000 mt planned food aid programme for 2008.
Aid diverted from Horn of Africa
The first 19,000 mt of the USA’s 30,000 mt wheat aid – which was diverted from the Horn of Africa, from a less urgent programme – has reached neighbouring Pakistan and WFP has started transporting it into southern Afghanistan, Corsino said.
WFP hopes to purchase the remaining food items from Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours (Iran and Pakistan) and other regional markets based on “best prices and speedy delivery”.
Afghan government bodies and UN agencies have already conducted needs assessments and have identified targeted beneficiaries, and food aid will be distributed mostly through food-for-work programmes.
However, in selective cases vulnerable female-headed households and disabled people will be considered for free distribution, Corsino said.
Attacks on aid convoys
Widespread insecurity and heavy snowfall have hindered humanitarian access to many parts of the country, particularly in western and southern provinces.
WFP has lost 410 mt of food items valued $350,000 in nine armed attacks on its contracted convoys in western Afghanistan in the past nine months, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a press release on 5 February.
According to Corsino, the humanitarian intervention to assist 2.55 million food-insecure Afghans will start in late February with almost all food aid being delivered to targeted communities by road.
The UN has repeatedly called on all sides in the conflict to ensure safe passage for humanitarian relief convoys and stop attacks on aid workers.