The UN World Food Programme (WFP), the lead agency for fighting hunger, is reporting a $257 million funding shortage for its mission in Afghanistan. There are 7.3 million people in Afghanistan considered food insecure and cannot access basic foods on a daily basis.
A press release issued today said, “shortfalls in specialized nutrition products have also forced WFP to reduce the number of children under five that it can assist – down from 62,000 per month to about 40,000 per month.” This shortage includes supplementary plumpy, a food used to treat dangerous malnutrition levels in children.
Without proper nutrition in the first years of life, children can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. In Afghanistan WFP reports, “More than half of children under the age of five are malnourished.”
WFP also says if the funding shortage continues, it will begin to scale back activities including school feeding which currently reaches a million Afghan children. Without new funding, WFP may be forced to suspend part of its mission this summer. The agency relies on voluntary funding from the international community.
WFP Afghanistan Country Director Louis Imbleau says, “We are making this appeal to give us the best possible chance of plugging the looming gaps in supply. Food security is the bedrock of development in this country – especially for the youngest and most vulnerable.” Once a donation is made, it can take several months for the cash to translate into delivered food, depending on the shipping method.
There are also the 600,000 street children in Afghanistan who are in need of a full ration program. This is a critical step for rehabilitating these children and getting them the foundation to reenter the education system. These children need to be off the streets and in school with a meal and take-home ration program. Last year WFP began partnering with the Aschiana Foundation on take-home rations for 2,000 street children.
The funding shortage comes at a time when the U.S. Congress is planning to reduce international food aid, this despite the fact that peace and development in Afghanistan and other countries hinge on food security.