AFGHANISTAN: UN renews call for food aid funding
KABUL, 19 August 2008 (IRIN) – Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan Kai Eide has called on donors to respond quickly to a US$404 million appeal made a month ago to ease the impact of drought and high food prices.
About five million vulnerable Afghans have been pushed into high-risk food insecurity over the past few months, according to aid agencies.
“I call on donors to commit resources as soon as possible… the [requested] amount of money needs to come in soon,” Eide, who also heads the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told reporters in Kabul on 19 July.
The Afghan government and UN agencies on 19 July launched a joint appeal for over $404 million to provide emergency food aid to millions of vulnerable Afghans affected by drought and high food prices, support agriculture and animal husbandry, and deliver live-saving medical assistance.
The appeal includes $185 million for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to procure and distribute 100,000 tonnes of food aid to five million most needy people.
Eide did not specify how much funding has been pledged to the appeal so far. However, a UN official who did not want to be identified told IRIN that up to 6 percent of the total requested amount had been pledged by donors, including the UK.
“The sooner donors react [to the appeal] the more suffering we will be able to prevent,” Eide said, adding that aid must reach some vulnerable communities before winter, when access becomes a challenge.
UNAMA’s capacity to be boosted
According to UNAMA, 35 percent of Afghanistan’s estimated 26.6 million population cannot meet their minimum daily food requirements and most households spend about 85 percent of their income on food, compared to 65 percent in 2005.
UN officials and aid workers say a “deteriorating humanitarian situation” has been in evidence over the past few years as a result of the insurgency, drought, and aid ineffectiveness.
In a bid to respond to the growing needs, Eide said UNAMA’s humanitarian capacity would be strengthened (both in terms of personnel and resources) to effectively “forecast, analyse and coordinate” relief activities.
“Crime” of aid convoy attacks
Meanwhile, insurgents and other armed groups have continued attacking and looting commercial trucks carrying WFP food aid.
Eide called such attacks a “crime against the poorest” and accused the attackers of “stealing from the poorest” and “attacking the poorest” people.
Susana Rico, WFP’s country representative, said efforts were under way to provide more “structured escorts” by using the Afghan National Police to protect food aid convoys.
Afghanistan’s food problems have been compounded by a severe drought, which has damaged crops and animal husbandry. As a result Afghans were going “through difficult moments of their life,” Rico said.