In Afghanistan, hunger and malnutrition are widespread, yet funding for food aid programs is dismal. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) wants to feed about 7.3 million needy Afghans in the conflict-torn country.
But WFP says it “faces significant funding shortages in 2011…and is urging donors to provide the US$132 million required to continue its lifesaving food assistance through to the end of July.”
A report from the UN Secretary General stated, “Current shortfalls affect all programmes, including school feeding, training and vocational initiatives and the food-for-work programme. If additional support cannot be obtained, WFP will have to cut planned food distribution activities throughout Afghanistan.”
These funding shortages also impact the supply of supplementary plumpy, a special peanut paste that can save Afghan infants from potentially deadly malnutrition.
The Aschiana Foundation, a charity which aids street children in Kabul, cannot provide food at one of its centers because of lack of funding. A complete ration program is needed for street children in the country but it’s another hunger issue being largely ignored by the international community.
What’s missing in the Afghanistan strategy is the realization that food is the foundation for all other objectives in the country. Without food, children suffer stunted growth in body and mind and they cannot get an education. Adults without enough food cannot work effectively and certainly won’t develop an appetite for democracy. In short, food is a building block for peace.
It’s through food stability that longer-term projects aimed at self-sufficiency can go forward. You need to have effective interim aid to precede longer-term recovery.
But where is the U.S. leadership in rallying the international community to meet this crisis? The President and the Congress should take responsibility for this and make fighting hunger a top priority for 2011 in Afghanistan and beyond. It’s the only road to peace.