DJIBOUTI – To help combat food insecurity in the Arta region of Djibouti, U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti Geeta Pasi led a food distribution to 200 vulnerable families today. Those families received vital food rations that were contributed by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), as part of a substantial donation of food for 2013, and distributed by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
U.S. Ambassador Geeta Pasi, USAID’s Djibouti Representative Cheryl Anderson, WFP Country Director Jacques Higgins, and government officials visited the Nagad district in this especially arid country in the Horn of Africa, to see how WFP assistance is helping people cope with seasonal food shortages and hardship caused by previous droughts.
Ambassador Pasi helped distribute the food assistance, which is part of a contribution valued at US$4 million from the United States to the people of Djibouti in 2013.
The total contribution consisted of 3,530 metric tons of commodities, including vegetable oil, wheat flour, peas, sorghum and wheat-soy blend, and support thousands of people.
“The United States is a leading contributor to food assistance around the world, and provides more than one third of World Food Program’s total budget. The food provided by USAID here will benefit rural Djiboutians, who have been affected by recurring droughts, as well as refugees in Djibouti. Today, I am also very pleased to announce a new contribution of $4 million of food assistance for the coming year,” said Ambassador Pasi.
USAID has supported around 102,000 people, including refugees, each year since 2006 with food assistance worth around US$ 12.6 million.
“Thanks to the contributions of USAID, the food security situation in Djibouti has improved. This year, 22,000 people in rural areas are suffering from severe food insecurity and need emergency food relief, compared with nearly double that figure - 42,000 - in 2012,” said Jacques Higgins, of WFP. “However, the situation in rural areas remains critical. WFP will continue to support the Government of Djibouti in its efforts to strengthen people’s resilience to drought and other external shocks, while also providing crucial support in meeting urgent food and nutritional needs,” he added.
An Emergency Food Security Assessment, carried out by WFP and its partners this year, highlighted the need to better equip Djibouti to cope with food shortages caused by poor rains, water scarcity and high food prices.
It also showed that 60 percent of households still have poor or borderline food consumption. Levels of malnutrition are also high, with the Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rate among children under five years around 18 percent - well above the global emergency level of 15 percent. Among the same group of children, chronic malnutrition is at 35.2 percent while 30 percent are underweight.
The U.S Government works closely with the Government of Djibouti to fight against malnutrition,USAID provided $2.8 million, which helped to drastically reduce the fatality rate of severely malnourished children from 20 percent in 2006 to 0.2 percent in 2012.
USAID has financed a Famine Early Warning Systems Network, known as FEWS NET, which monitors the food security situation in the country and alerts both the Government and the donor community to this.
WFP’s operations in Djibouti include targeted food distributions for vulnerable groups, school feeding, Food For Work projects to conserve water and build roads and community gardens, and the distribution of fortified food to children, pregnant women and nursing mothers. In 2013, WFP will assist approximately 136,000 people in Djibouti through these programs and emergency food assistance.
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WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. Last year, WFP reached more than 97 million people in 80 countries with food assistance.
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For more information please contact:
Jacques Higgins, WFP/Djibouti, Mob. +253 77864117, e-mail: Jacques.Higgins@wfp.org
U.S. Embassy, email: DjiboutiPublic@state.gov.