BUJUMBURA - A drastic shortage of funds will force the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to begin to slash its food assistance to two million people in Burundi unless an additional US$23.4 million is received, the agency announced today.
While some food distributions have already been postponed or cancelled, starting in early June, WFP will have to cut by 50 percent its maize rations. In addition, all Food for Work activities which support local development will be suspended. By August, all other food aid commodities will be reduced. WFP Burundi will use its limited food stocks to focus on such life-saving activities as therapeutic feeding for malnourished mothers and children, but even these will be affected without additional pledges.
The cutbacks come as Burundi prepares for historic elections between June and September, marking the end of the country's decade-long conflict and subsequent transition period.
"Currently, there are hopes for peace and recovery in Burundi, but adverse climatic conditions, plant diseases, extreme poverty and displacement make the daily life of the average Burundian a constant challenge. And now, as the country faces the critical test of a peaceful transition, we have no other choice but to scale back our assistance to the poorest," said Zlatan Milisic, WFP Country Director in Burundi.
The lack of resources will not only have a serious impact on the well-being of 600,000 Burundians who have for the last six months endured drought and consequent food shortages, but will also jeopardize the supply of life-saving food to 250 feeding centres assisting 210,000 malnourished children and nursing mothers throughout the country.
In addition, the distribution of food rations which keeps nearly a million farmers from resorting to eating their seeds during the planting season is also at risk, endangering subsequent harvests. Some 15,000 Rwandan and Congolese refugees as well as more than 90,000 Burundian refugees expected to return to their homeland in the coming months, all of whom rely heavily on WFP assistance for their very survival, will also face major cuts.
Some 40,500 metric tons of food is urgently needed now to assist two million Burundians until December.
"Without urgent funding, WFP food stocks will run out completely by September --- when the country's food needs are traditionally most acute and during a fragile post election period," Milisic added.
"War has robbed plenty of Burundians of their homes and livelihoods. We have to do everything we can to make sure the assistance we provide meets their basic needs and support the return to peace. Otherwise peace and democracy will just remain empty concepts," Milisic said.
Recent contributions to WFP operations in Burundi have come from the following donors: USA (US$3.7 million), Belgium (US$2.3 million), Canada (US$1.3 million), Netherlands (US$1.2 million) and Ireland (US$660,000).
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