"WFP has started food distribution to provinces in the eastern and northern region," Stefano Porretti, WFP representative and country director in Afghanistan, told IRIN.
The move follows a joint emergency appeal launched in July, and aims to provide an emergency safety-net. Some 230,000 tonnes of mixed food items should be distributed by July 2009.
The emergency food assistance will be delivered through "a range of interventions to meet hunger and humanitarian needs in ways that are as sensitive as possible to local conditions, such as food assistance, vouchers, cash transfers and programmes addressing chronic hunger and under-nutrition, focusing on the most vulnerable to the consequences of hunger," Porretti said.
Most of the aid will be delivered through food-for-work projects which support local communities and aim to create a level of sustainability.
Assessments conducted by aid agencies before July identified over half a million pregnant and lactating women and children under five who have been pushed into acute malnourishment due to lack of access to adequate food and medical care.
Together with other agencies, WFP will help protect these women and children from malnutrition through food aid.
"We are planning to provide food assistance to 550,000 pregnant and lactating women and children under five years of age, who are at risk of being pushed into acute malnutrition," Porretti said.
Call for more donations
Donors have so far given 50 percent of the US$185 million WFP had requested for food aid. This was sufficient to meet needs until March 2009 but, WFP said, it could face a "rupture in supply" beyond that.
"Looking to the future, one of the major problems that WFP is facing in the mid- to long-term is a lack of funding. In April 2009, if nothing changes, we expect a rupture in the WFP supply," Porretti said on 19 November.
WFP has called on donors to step forward now and contribute funding because it takes 3-6 months for a donation to be translated into food in the country.
Aid agencies such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Oxfam International have warned about large-scale displacements and a winter catastrophe if relief does not reach those in need.
The ICRC said it would be distributing over 5,000 tones of food aid to thousands of drought-affected households in the north.
WFP said it had delivered about 20,000 tones of food to dozens of vulnerable districts across the country and would dispatch more in the coming months.
Early snowfall has blocked some roads but WFP said it would activate contingency plans to ensure food aid gets to the most vulnerable communities "if the weather deteriorates faster than expected".