Press conference by Stefano Porretti, WFP Representative and Country Director in Afghanistan; Dr. Nazifullah Salarzai, UNAMA Spokesperson's Office

News and Press Release
Originally published
(near verbatim transcript)

WFP: The World Food Programme is continuing to dispatch food assistance that is destined to reach some of the most vulnerable of Afghanistan's population before the harsh winter sets in. 36,000 metric tonnes of food is being dispatched to 950,000 people. It is being pre-positioned in 95 districts of 23 provinces.

These provinces are Bamyan, Daikundi, Wardak, Logar, Ghazni, Faryab, Sari Pul, Samangan, Baghlan, Balkh, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Ghor, Badghis, Zabul, Uruzgan, Kandahar, Hilmand, Nimroz, Badakhshan, Laghman, Nuristan, Nangarhar and Kunar.

To clarify, this food is not being placed in stockpiles in case of emergencies, but it is food assistance that will be delivered for pre-identified beneficiaries ahead of time due to the risk of inaccessibility of certain communities during the winter months.

As of yesterday, so far 70 per cent or 25,000 metric tonnes of this has been dispatched.

WFP is confident that we will be able to deliver the food although we are making contingency plans in case the weather deteriorates faster than expected. For example, we may have to change routes to use better roads if some of the dirt roads become inaccessible or unstable. Other alternative solutions may also be considered.

Apart from those areas most affected by winter, WFP is also continuing to provide food assistance to other parts of the population who remain food insecure due to the drought and high food prices. A total of five million people have been affected by these two factors, in addition to the 3.7 million who are already assisted by WFP through its regular programme. Prices for staple goods are still about one and a half times what they were in 2007. In 2005, an average household used to spend 56 per cent of their income on food. That figure is now around 73 per cent, which places households in a far more vulnerable position.

WFP works in close collaboration with the Government in Afghanistan, especially the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) in order to best target the people who are in need.

WFP welcomes the Government of Afghanistan's initiative to bring in relief food to this country for the first time. Inside Afghanistan growing insecurity remains one of the biggest challenges as it presents serious restrictions for humanitarian interventions and delivery. This year to date, there have been 26 attacks on WFP convoys in Afghanistan resulting in the loss of 870 metric tonnes of food with a value of US$ 500,000. This could have fed almost 100,000 vulnerable Afghans for a month.

I would like to express WFP's gratitude and thanks to the Government of Afghanistan for ensuring the smooth transport of commodities inside Afghanistan. Here I can only reiterate and fully support the message given by the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, when he appealed to all parties for the safe passage of food as part of a wider expansion of the humanitarian agenda.

Looking to the future, one of the major problems that WFP is facing is in the mid to long-term is a lack of funding. At present, the Joint Emergency Appeal of July 2008 has only been funded to 50 per cent. Therefore, WFP are funded only up until March 2009. In April 2009, if nothing changes, we expect a rupture in the WFP supply.

March/April of next year will be a critical time as the coping methods of many of the most vulnerable Afghans will begin to run out and the next harvests will only be reaped in July. As it takes a lead time of three to six months for a donation to translate into food in country, it is important that we receive more contributions now.