Funding squeeze hits U.N. food programme in Afghanistan

by Reuters
Friday, 2 September 2016 12:01 GMT

An internally displaced Afghan boy stands next to his mother as they line up to receive winter relief assistance donated by the World Food Program (WFP) at a refugee camp in Kabul January 13, 2015. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

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WFP is facing a $50 mln funding shortfall to support its programmes this year and ensure they are not interrupted during the coming winter

KABUL, Sept 2 (Reuters) - A squeeze on funding caused by the spread of crises across the Middle East and Africa has left the World Food Programme (WFP) unsure about whether it can continue its planned operations in Afghanistan, the U.N. food organisation said on Friday.

"We met donors and implored them to continue their support to this country to ensure we don't lose momentum," Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the WFP, told reporters during a four-day visit to Kabul.

She said the organisation, which has been active in Afghanistan since 1963, faced a $50 million funding shortfall to support its programmes this year and ensure they were not interrupted during the coming winter.

A surge in the number of refugees returning from Pakistan had added to the strains, she said.

Angeline Rudakubana, the WFP's deputy country director for Afghanistan, said the organisation had been forced to reduce rations in its school meals programme and cut other support.

Chronic insecurity in many parts of the country had occasionally forced the WFP to suspend some activities, but the main problem remained funding.

The comments underline the extent to which aid to Afghanistan, where the WFP estimates that 40 percent of people face "food insecurity", is under strain 15 years after the hardline Taliban regime was toppled.

"It is not donor fatigue. Globally, the donors have never been more generous," Cousin said.

"But we are seeing increased demands for donor support, whether it's Syria, Iraq, Yemen, South Sudan, now northeast Nigeria."

(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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