Afghanistan

Insecurity jeopardizing WFP food aid deliveries in western Afghanistan

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KABUL - The United Nations World Food Programme today warned that continuing security problems are hampering operations in some parts of Afghanistan, especially in the west of the country where food stocks are running short and thousands of the most vulnerable people may soon see critical food supplies curtailed or interrupted.

"WFP has been unable to move food to the western region of Afghanistan for four weeks due to insecurity," said Rick Corsino, Country Director for WFP Afghanistan. "Unless we can resume movement along the southern ring road soon, we will run out of food in the west in the coming weeks, and will have to reduce or suspend distributions to many of the poor families, children and internally displaced people living in those areas."

"We continue to work with Government authorities at central, provincial and district level, as well as our own transporters, to enable deliveries to resume, hopefully as soon as possible," Corsino added.

WFP currently has 14,800 metric tons of food ready to move in Quetta, Pakistan, with transporters and trucks available to resume shipments across the border into Afghanistan when conditions permit.

Most of the security problems are concentrated in western and southern Afghanistan but there are also similar concerns in some areas of the east. In northern and central Afghanistan, and in many parts of the south and east, WFP operations are continuing as normal.

Since June 2006, there have been 25 incidents involving trucks carrying WFP food throughout Afghanistan. An estimated 600 tons of food has been lost, valued at approximately US$400,000. Most trucks are provided by commercial transporters and are not marked as United Nations or WFP.

"The loss of 600 tons is important but needs to be seen in context," said Corsino. "In the past 12 months, WFP Afghanistan has moved over 150,000 tons of food to needy people throughout the country. The losses from the attacks and looting during this time account for less than .4 per cent of the total but transporters insist on minimum security guarantees."

The majority of incidents involving WFP food have taken place on the southern ring road, which is a major artery linking Kandahar to Herat. The provinces of Paktika and Ghazni in the eastern region have also become difficult to reach. The police, WFP security and the UN Department of Safety and Security have investigated all of the incidents.

"WFP and the broader UN family remain committed to helping Afghanistan and its people," said Corsino.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: on average, each year, we give food to 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP - We Feed People.

WFP now provides RSS feeds to help journalists keep up with the latest press releases, videos and photos as they are published on WFP.org. For more details see: http://www.wfp.org/english/?n=999.

WFP now has a dedicated ISDN line in Italy for quality two-way interviews with WFP officials.

For more information please contact (email address: firstname.lastname@wfp.org):

Jackie Dent, WFP/Afghanistan, Cell +93 797 662116

Ebadullah Ebadi, WFP/Afghanistan, Cell +93 797 66 2014, +93 700 27 8593

Peter Smerdon, WFP/Nairobi, Tel +254-20-7622179, Cell +254-733-528-911

Christiane Berthiaume, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564, Cell. +41-792857304

Gregory Barrow, WFP/London, Tel.. +44-20-72409001, Cell. +44-7968-008474

Barry Came, WFP/Rome, Tel. +39-06-6513-2411, Cell. +39-338-2225382

Bettina Luescher, WFP/New York, Tel. +1-212-9635196, Cell. +1-646-8241112, luescher@un.org