WFP Executive Director, James Morris, has approved a two-year operation in Azerbaijan, which will provide 26,833 metric tons of food assistance to 143,500 people displaced by the conflict with Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Under the new operation, valued at US$15.7 million, WFP will provide food aid to the most vulnerable of the displaced population, particularly women and children.
“This is likely to be the last phase of WFP’s operation in Azerbaijan. In order to ensure a smooth handover to the Government towards the end of the project, the continued financial support from donors is crucial,” said Amir Abdulla, WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, in an appeal to the international donor community for continued support in this critical period of transition.
Since leaving Nagorno Karabakh 13 years ago, many displaced Azerbaijanis still live in inadequate conditions and have severely limited assets.
A WFP Food Security and Nutrition Assessment – the first of its kind in Azerbaijan – was released last year and warned that nearly 300,000 of the one million Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict with Armenia would continue to rely on food aid for the foreseeable future.
Only 40 percent of the households covered by the survey have access to agricultural land. In all instances most of the produce grown is for family subsistence.
In designing the new operation, WFP incorporated the findings from the survey and took into consideration the ongoing activities of the government to assist the displaced population by reinforcing its current assistance and benefit programmes.
The operation is aligned with the State Programme for Poverty Reduction and Economic Development and will help Azerbaijan work towards the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality and empower women.
A Food for Education component of the operation will address declining enrolment rates of primary school children and help stabilize attendance by providing school meals.
More employment opportunities
A Food for Work project will increase employment opportunities for rural households, many of whom are displaced people. “Seventy percent of WFP’s beneficiaries are women and children – they are extremely food insecure. Any discontinuation of food assistance at this time will seriously affect their health and nutritional well being.
To avert a disruption of what has been achieved so far with the help of the government, funding is crucial,” said Rahman Chowdhury, WFP’s Representative for Azerbaijan.
Over the past decade, WFP has been pivotal in alleviating the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh that started in the early 1990s.
WFP has provided over US$100 million in food assistance to Azerbaijan in the past twelve years to ease the hardships of the displaced population.