Food aid for children, AIDS and TB patients in Cambodia slashed due to funding shortage

Published on 19 January 2007

WFP has warned that beginning next month more than 700,000 hungry Cambodians – mostly young children and HIV/AIDS and TB patients – will not receive essential food.

WFP has warned that beginning next month more than 700,000 hungry Cambodians – mostly young children and HIV/AIDS and TB patients – will not receive essential food.

The situation is likely to worsen unless new donations are received soon.

“We are very grateful to donors for generously supporting this operation thus far, but the money is now running out. Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries, and these people rely on WFP’s help to keep them coming to school and getting HIV and TB treatment,” said James Morris, Executive Director of WFP.

Drug resistant TB

Those affected include some 650,000 children on school feeding programmes, as well as 70,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and 18,000 TB patients.

Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest countries, and these people rely on WFP’s help to keep them coming to school and getting HIV and TB treatment

James Morris, WFP Executive Director

"There is a chronic and persistent food insecurity situation in Cambodia," said Dr Peter Piot, Executive Director of UNAIDS. "Food and nutrition are an essential part of the package of care for people receiving treatment for AIDS and efforts must be made to ensure that all people living with HIV have access to the food and nutrition they need."

What is especially dangerous from a health perspective is the development of drug-resistant variants of TB among patients who do not complete their treatment.

Food aid incentive

Food aid is a major incentive to draw patients to health posts and clinics and receive a full course of treatment.

Those who fail to complete the course may well become incubators for new types of TB that threaten society at large.

Treatment of such cases, moreover, can cost up to 100 times as much as the original medication.

Since October 2006, a funding shortage has forced WFP to progressively reduce rations to beneficiaries, cutting the number of Cambodians eligible for assistance, and delaying the distribution of food to those who need it the most.

Diminishing donor support

WFP now needs at least US$10 million to distribute some 18,000 metric tons of food aid to 1.1 million Cambodians until July 2007.

Donor support for the agency’s relief programme in Cambodia has diminished alarmingly since 2005.

“Hundreds of thousands of children in Cambodia count on the nutritious meal provided to them by the World Food Programme,” said Thomas Keusters, WFP Country Director in Cambodia.

Vulnerable

“We want to restore this needed food assistance for children, for the very sick, and for the desperately poor, but we can only do this with the immediate and valued support of the international community.”

According to recent studies, progress towards food security has been made in Cambodia but this is measured against continuing widespread food insecurity and past famine and human catastrophe in the 1970s.

Cambodia "hunger hot spot"

According to the 2006 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Cambodia is one of the 12 “hunger hot spot” countries listed as “extremely alarming”.

With nearly 35 percent of Cambodians living below the poverty line, Cambodia is classified as a least developed and low-income, food-deficit country.

High population growth, low agricultural productivity and poor access to health services continue to hamper progress in human development.