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UN food agency warns it will halt its Chechnya ops

UN food agency warns it will halt its Chechnya operation soon without more funds

Already forced because of lack of funding to reduce assistance to displaced people from war-torn Chechnya, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today warned it would have to halt its operation in the devastated republic entirely in three months unless fresh pledges are made soon.

“From October, we will have absolutely nothing left to distribute,” said Koryun Alaverdyan, WFP’s Deputy Country Director in the Russian Federation. “The people we seek to assist are the poorest survivors of the Chechen conflict.”

The UN agency, which also because of lack of funding has had to cut back on the number of Chechens it can support, has mobilized only 28 per cent of the $22 million it needs to feed 250,000 people this year. These include 130,000 primary school children in Chechnya and 27,000 Chechens displaced by the conflict, living in the neighbouring Republic of Ingushetia.

Since the beginning of the year WFP has been able to provide only wheat flour, rather than the standard ration that also includes vegetable oil, sugar and salt, and in May insufficient donations forced the agency to cut the number of displaced Chechens being assisted in Ingushetia from 27,000 to 16,000.

“Without outside help, these people will have to fend for themselves, which means resorting to measures such as selling what meagre assets they have left,” said Mr. Alaverdyan. “That would make it even more difficult for them to start rebuilding their lives.”

The conflict in Chechnya, which began in September 1999, forced many people to flee into neighbouring regions, and a still-precarious security situation has prevented many from returning home, WFP said. Of the 39,000 who have returned since 2004, many live in dire conditions, struggling to survive amidst the devastation, high unemployment and escalating poverty.

WFP provides food aid through soup kitchens for orphans, the disabled and the elderly in Grozny, the Chechen capital. It also supports food-for-work projects, allowing participants to be paid in food to rehabilitate agricultural and other infrastructure. Activities also include food-for-training schemes and food-for-education programmes for primary school children.

Donors to WFP’s current operation include Canada, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and multilateral funds.

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