WFP warns of food aid shortages in Armenia

ROME - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today that by the end of April it will run out of food for 300,000 beneficiaries. "We are running out of food rapidly, said Muzaffar Choudhery, country director for WFP's operations in Armenia.
WFP has received only US$10 million of the US$32 million requested for the three-year operation launched in 2001. "We have no contributions that will take us beyond the end of April," he stressed.

In Armenia an estimated 55 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. "Many of these beneficiaries include children and old people who have no source of income. International food aid, provided by WFP, is their only lifeline. Without it, the nutritional level of the most vulnerable people will dramatically decrease," he added.

Earlier this year, WFP received contributions from Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. "We are grateful for the donations which came at a critical moment for continuing our operations. Without this we would not have made it to the end of April," said Choudhery. The donations were used to purchase 497 tons of vegetable oil and 898 metric tons of flour.

WFP first began operations in the country in 1993. In total it has mobilized 108,344 metric tons of food assistance to feed on average 220,000 people a year.

Since its independence in 1991, Armenia has been hit by a series of disasters, both economic and natural. The 1988 earthquake left over 25,000 people dead and over 400,000 homeless. The following year a military conflict with Azerbaijan broke out over the disputed territories of Nagorno-Karabakh.

While a ceasefire has been in place since May 1994, there is still no political solution. The conflict has cut Armenia off from its neighbours and former trading partners: Turkey and Azerbaijan. With its market dissolved, the country's infrastructure has collapsed. "This is a country virtually without an export economy and, currently, has little prospects for economic growth," said Choudhery.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency. Every year WFP feeds around 80 million people in 82 countries including most of the world's refugees and internally displaced people.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign -- As the largest provider of nutritious meals to poor school children, WFP has launched a global campaign aimed at ensuring the world's 300 million undernourished children are educated.

For more information please contact:

Trevor Rowe, Chief Spokesperson, WFP Rome, Tel. +39-06-65132602
Maria Antonia Turner, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Rome, tel. +39-06-65132253
Christiane Berthiaume, Public Affairs Officer, WFP Geneva, Tel. +41-22-9178564