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Food Supply In Afghanistan Remains Unreliable


Food Supply In Afghanistan Remains Unreliable, UN Agency Says

Unveiling figures showing that it delivered supplies to 2.1 million people across Afghanistan in the first quarter of this year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today that the country remains heavily dependent on food aid.

Briefing reporters in Kabul, WFP spokesman Maarten Roest said data indicated it has also provided food aid over the past two years to 2.5 million returning refugees at their point of entry into Afghanistan.

Mr. Roest said that, although there have been "significant improvements" in food security, "Afghanistan is still in a situation where food aid has a substantive role in meeting the immediate needs of the food-insecure and in the reconstruction of the country."

A national study conducted last year showed that about 3.8 million rural Afghans will not be able to meet their minimum daily food requirements, and several provinces are reported to be ravaged by drought.

Mr. Roest said WFP's assistance schemes are targeted at groups most in need, including refugees, orphans, the disabled, and widows who no longer have a breadwinner in the family.

Since March the scheme directed at returning refugees has changed so that returnees only receive food packages if they are travelling to areas where food is scarce. Returnees now receive cash donations instead.

Mr. Roest said WFP also engaged in a successful child de-worming project during the first three months of 2004. Under the project, being run with the help of the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Afghan Government ministries of Education and Health, the country's primary school-age population of 4.5 million will be de-wormed, thus reducing the incidence of diseases.

Meanwhile, UNICEF and two Afghan Government ministries will launch a separate campaign Sunday to try to combat water-borne diseases, focusing on hygiene education and protecting the safety of the water supply.

Afghanistan suffers from high rates of such water-borne or sanitation-related diseases as cholera, dysentery, diarrhoea, scabies and trachoma.

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