KABUL - Ahead of the winter freeze, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started pre-positioning food supplies for nearly half a million impoverished Afghans who will be cut off from markets once the cold weather sets in.
About 23,000 metric tonnes of food - including wheat, pulses, oil and salt - will be distributed to nearly half a million people throughout Afghanistan in the coming weeks.
"Winter is a brutal time for poor and needy Afghans. There are literally tens of thousands of people trapped by heavy snowfalls and freezing winds, and they have absolutely no way of getting food. These are the people that WFP is determined to assist," said Charles Vincent, WFP Representative in Afghanistan.
"Winterization is WFP's largest annual operation in Afghanistan and requires enormous planning. Food must be trucked to some of the remotest and desolate parts of the country, and then distributed to the needy before the cold weather hits," said Vincent.
WFP uses creative food aid schemes to support development, including food for the construction of roads, wells and other community assets, food for people attending training and food for school children. Poor people who are unable to join these projects receive special food rations.
Deliveries have already commenced in Badakhshan in northeastern Afghanistan where winter normally begins as early as September. Around 5,900 tonnes of various food commodities have been allocated to remote and mountainous districts.
Some WFP operations in Badakshan have been hampered by the poor state of roads and bridges, which were destroyed by heavy snowfalls and devastating floods in recent months. To alleviate blockages, WFP will provide food to workers fixing the road between Hawzi Shah and Koofab districts. The new road will provide immense benefits to surrounding communities and enable WFP to truck food aid to the needy. Winter food stocks will be stored in Ragh and Ishakashim districts while the road is repaired.
Similarly, WFP food convoys to communities in the Pamir Mountains have been affected by the loss of a bridge in Baharak, which was washed away by floods last week. Efforts by the local government and NGOs are ongoing to divert the road so that WFP can dispatch food to remote and high altitude areas before the weather turns cold.
In inaccessible areas of northern Baghlan province, where many roads are in bad condition or do not exist, WFP has managed to provide biscuits and food to the poor. A total of 2,400 tonnes of biscuits will be dispatched to an estimated 85,500 people in the province.
Parts of central Bamyan province are so remote they are only accessible for five months a year. To assist poor people living in these areas, WFP will preposition close to 7,000 tonnes of food commodities in September and October to tide them over the long harsh winter.
In the western region, WFP will deliver 1,668 tonnes of food in Ghor and Badghis provinces. In these two provinces, there are about 14 districts targeted for assistance.
Last year, WFP delivered aproximately 21,300 tonnes of food to 525,500 people throughout Afghanistan as part of its winterization operations.
WFP's overall operational budget in Afghanistan is US$341 million from April 2003 to September 2005. To date WFP still faces a shortfall of 15 percent of total funds required.
Recent donations to WFP's operations in Afghanistan include: the United States (US$ 31.6 million), India (US$ 19.4 million), European Commission (US$ 1.9 million), Saudi Arabia (US$ 1.2 million), the Netherlands (US$ 1.1 million), Switzerland (US$ 397,000), Poland (US$ 161,000), and private donors from Japan (US$ 150,000), and the United Kingdom and Canada (US$ 102,000).
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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