JALALABAD – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a groundbreaking food voucher project in eastern Afghanistan, helping thousands of hungry people get the food they need to live healthy lives.
WFP has begun distributing monthly food vouchers to about 1,500 families in the eastern city of Jalalabad. Each voucher is worth 1,250 Afghanis, or about US$25, and can be exchanged for food items in selected local shops. The project is supported by a contribution of US $2.7 million from the government of the Netherlands.
“Vouchers are an important new way for WFP to support Afghanistan’s urban poor, while at the same time boosting the local economy in Afghan cities,” said Louis Imbleau, WFP’s representative in Afghanistan.
“Improving the situation of many food insecure people in the urban areas is a major challenge in Afghanistan. Food vouchers are an important step forward towards more self-reliance of the urban poor,” said Jan Waltmans, Chargé d’Affaires of the Netherlands Embassy in Kabul.
WFP uses vouchers in places where food is available in markets, but where poor people cannot afford to buy it.
Beneficiaries and shopkeepers alike have greeted the voucher project with enthusiasm.
For poor families, the vouchers mean guaranteed access to food every month. Beyond that, the project also gives them the chance – sometimes for the first time – to choose which foods will best meet their families’ needs.
For local merchants, the vouchers are creating thousands of new customers, most of whom were previously unable to afford to buy food in their shops.
The voucher project aims to support the poorest urban families, focusing on those headed by widows and disabled people. WFP plans to expand the project to four other Afghan cities before the end of the year, supporting about 30,000 families with vouchers worth a total of US$5 million.
The launch of the voucher project in Jalalabad comes after a successful pilot version of the programme in Kabul, which ended last year. WFP will be re-introducing vouchers in Kabul in the coming months, and will also begin voucher distributions in 2011 in the cities of Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat and Faizabad.
Traditionally, most of WFP’s work in Afghanistan has been in highly food-insecure rural areas. The voucher project is part of a new urban safety net programme aimed at helping the poor in Afghan cities, who are particularly vulnerable to rising food prices.
WFP has been working continuously in Afghanistan since 1963, and plans to feed some 7.3 million people in all 34 provinces of the country this year.
Despite recent generous contributions in 2011 from Australia, Japan, United Kingdom, the United States among others, WFP currently has less than half of the financial resources it needs for the year. WFP’s Afghanistan operation requires another US$279 million through the end of 2011.
For further information: Assadullah Azhari, WFP/Kabul, Mob. +93 797 662 190