DESPITE RISING VIOLENCE, WFP RESUMES ACTIVITIES IN HERAT WITH URGENT FOOD FOR DROUGHT VICTIMS
KABUL - Only four days after several UN compounds in the western Afghan city of Herat were ransacked, the UN World Food Programme has resumed operations from the city by dispatching a badly needed food convoy to the neighbouring Ghor province to assist nearly 40,000 drought-affected people.
Nine trucks carrying 170 metric tons of food commodities left Herat city today for Chagcharan, capital of Ghor province. At least one more convoy carrying 500 tons is scheduled to depart over the weekend to Passaband in the south of the province.
The convoys, which are part of WFP's drought response in the central province, were suspended after violence erupted in Herat last week. Several UN compounds were looted and burnt, but WFP premises were unharmed and national staff have managed to resume their humanitarian mission.
"The determination of our colleagues in Herat shows that even under extremely difficult circumstances, WFP remains committed to doing all it can to assist the government of Afghanistan in mitigating the impact of this severe drought," said Michael Jones, WFP Afghanistan's Deputy Country Director.
Food scarcity due to drought has reportedly forced many Ghor residents to start migrating to neighbouring areas. WFP plans to provide about 1,700 tons to some 40,000 people in the drought-stricken province before winter sets in and the region will become practically inaccessible to humanitarian assistance.
Following the Afghan government's emergency drought appeal early this month, WFP decided to extend aid to 1.4 million of the most vulnerable people in 14 provinces severely affected by drought, as well as locust attacks and diseases, such as sunn pest and brown rust. The operation will include the distribution of up to 80,000 tons of food, valued at US$52 million between now and the harvest in May 2005.
Yesterday, two WFP international staff members moved back to Herat from Kabul after all UN international staff had to be relocated for security reasons following the violence that engulfed the city.
Based on the 2003 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, WFP estimates that 37 percent of the Afghan population - or almost 6.5 million people - may not able to meet their minimum food needs.
Up to four million people will have access to employment through the National Emergency Employment Programme, the National Solidarity Programme and other national cash-based interventions, led by the government with international support.
WFP's current operations in Afghanistan will reach a total of 2.3 million direct beneficiaries.
The main intervention is food-for-work (FFW), with a relief component for those unable to participate in labour intensive activities. FFW activities will complement cash-for-work programmes and will focus on the rehabilitation of irrigation water supply systems and reforestation.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.
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