LIMA - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) this week began giving emergency assistance to more than 17,000 people affected by severe food shortages in the Andean mountains of Peru after their livestock were killed and crops wiped out by the worst recorded frost and snow storms for 30 years.
The food aid - valued at some US$180,000 - will target the hardest hit communities of Chucuito, El Collao, Puno, San Román, Lampa, Moho, Huancané, San Antonio de Putina, Sandia, Melgar, Azángaro and Carabaya, all located in the Puno Department, where temperatures have dropped to -26ºC and -35ºC and snow covers 80 percent of the territory.
A total 368 metric tons (including 307 tons of cereals, 33 tons of vegetable oil and 28 tons of sugar) will be distributed to the affected population - with particular attention to pregnant and nursing mothers and children under five - over the next three months. The operation is being carried out in coordination with Peruvian government agencies and local NGOs.
"This severe weather has had a devastating effect on the lives of many people in this region. The gravity of the situation demanded swift WFP intervention. The situation in Puno is now a top priority," said Dorte Ellehammer, WFP Peru Country Director.
A WFP study carried out last December revealed that the Puno department has the highest prevalence of chronic malnutrition - between 79 percent and 91 percent - among children under five. The situation is particularly severe in Puno, as a result of floods and drought at the beginning of the year, which led to many farmers in the region losing their crops. According to Ministry of Agriculture's estimates, 39,000 hectares of crops and 35,000 animals were lost.
In scattered communities at altitudes higher than 4,000 metres, the few remaining animals are emaciated and sick, the fields glazed with frost, like great sheets of glass, all crops destroyed. Many of the people, desperate for food, have fallen sick after eating meat from the dead animals.
This year, WFP has targeted assistance to more than 300,000 people in regions with the highest prevalence of malnutrition - especially among children - in Peru. They include 200,000 children receiving school feeding in five departments in the Andes, and 90,000 people in areas prone to natural disasters. As well as food aid, WFP also provides literacy training for women and school construction. In addition, WFP also supports women affected by HIV/AIDS through the NGO "Solas y Unidas" (Alone and United).
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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