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Emergency rice distribution to 150,000 Cambodians

UN agency begins emergency rice distribution to 150,000 hungry Cambodians

19 April 2005 – With an estimated 500,000 rural Cambodians struggling to cope with food shortages caused by a searing drought, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today that it had started distributing emergency rice rations to more than 150,000 vulnerable people, many of whom have not seen rain since November.

“Food security in rural Cambodia has been deteriorating even after the main rice harvest in December,” WFP acting Country Director Ramaraj Saravanamuttu said. “And when domestic food supplies run out, vulnerable people are obliged to sell their land and cattle, or go further into debt by borrowing money from relatives or money lenders to buy food. This leads them into a poverty trap from which they may never emerge.”

The drought, which destroyed an estimated 300,000 tons of rice in the December harvest or between 10 and 15 per cent of the total crop, started late last year. In the three months leading up to the harvest, called the “hungry season,” WFP distributed 1,000 tons of rice to 50,000 people in five provinces.

Half way around the world, in El Salvador, WFP Executive Director James Morris has called for continued support from governments and the private sector in Central America to eradicate child hunger as the best way to overcome poverty.

“If we could just harness our joint efforts to ensure that women and their children have access to nutritious food and basic health care, we would very quickly see the change,” he said at the start of a visit to El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

“It is achievable: it costs less than $1 a week for each beneficiary to provide supplementary feeding to mothers and children for one year, including the cost of fortifying the food with micronutrients, such as Vitamin A, iodine and iron,” he added.

Malnutrition among children in Central America remains a serious problem. At 49 per cent, Guatemala has the highest rate of chronic malnutrition among children under five in Latin America. The figures in El Salvador (19 per cent), Honduras (29 per cent) and Nicaragua (20 per cent) are also high.

ENDS

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