UNHCR's Country Representative, Mr. Hasim Utkan, and WFP's Country Representative, Mr. German Valdivia, signed a memorandum of understanding under which WFP will distribute food within Pakistan's new Afghan refugee camps. Previously WFP provided the food to UNHCR, which then distributed it to the refugees.
UN Resident Co-ordinator Onder Yucer was present at the signing.
"Working relations between UNHCR and WFP have long been seen internationally as an effective collaboration between U.N. humanitarian organisations," said Utkan. "This new step, under which WFP will handle the final distribution of food aid in Pakistan, is designed to further improve the efficiency of our operations and could be a model extended to our operations elsewhere."
WFP began providing $23.9 million in food aid to Afghans in the refugee camps UNHCR established during the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan after a UNHCR and WFP Joint Food Assessment Mission last year requested food aid to them for another twelve months.
More than 64,500 tons of food is needed by WFP to feed 288,000 Afghan refugees and provide supplementary feeding to 23,000 of the most vulnerable Afghan women and children in these new camps.
Previously WFP in Pakistan provided the food to UNHCR, which then distributed food to the refugees. Now the distribution will be handled by WFP, which will explore alternate methods to reach beneficiaries and improve strategies. The operation will be jointly monitored during the year and evaluated when it ends.
Food distributions will be carried out with the participation of international and local NGOs.
"UNHCR and WFP are global partners in helping refugees around the world," said Mr. Valdivia. "In Pakistan we are trying something new in our joint effort to fight hunger and provide shelter for displaced Afghans who fled their country in the face of the international coalition's war on
Afghanistan and the devastating effects of a five year drought. We call upon the international community for donor contributions to support these poor victims of circumstances beyond their control."
UNHCR assists Afghan refugees, who have been in Pakistan for up to two decades because of a succession of wars in Afghanistan. The most recent arrivals are those in the new refugee camps, which received WFP food assistance. An estimated 1.8 million Afghan refugees now live in Pakistan after UNHCR assisted more than 1.5 million to return to Afghanistan during 2002.
The Word Food Programme is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. In 2001, WFP fed 77 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.
For more information please contact:
German Valdivia, Representative, WFP
Pakistan, Tel + 92 51 111 937 937
David Fletcher, Deputy Country Director, WFP Pakistan, Mob 0320 4506583
Reza Sultan, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Pakistan, Mob 0300 8560150
Jack Redden, UNHCR, Mob 0320 450 7037