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Food Aid For 130,000 Azerbaijanis Faces Shut Down

UN Food Aid For 130,000 Azerbaijanis Faces Shut Down Due To Funding Shortfall

New York, Oct 18 2005

Without immediate help from international donors, food assistance to 130,000 Azerbaijanis displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia could come to a complete halt in just three weeks time, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warned today.

“For this to happen just before the onset of the harsh winter and during the holy month of Ramadan would be a severe blow to the displaced population, who are predominantly Muslim. In fact, it would be disastrous,” WFP’s Regional Director for the Middle East, Central Asia and Eastern Europe, Amir Abdulla, said of the $4 million – or 16 per cent – funding shortfall.

“Unless we can get enough resources right now, we will have no choice but to stop food assistance schemes at the beginning on November,” he added. Mr. Abdulla expressed hope that the international community would step in with funding for what he described as “desperately needed relief food aid” and added that further assistance from the Azerbaijan Government would be most welcome.

Since 1994, WFP has been pivotal in helping hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. More than 600,000 Azerbaijanis fled the region to other parts of Azerbaijan and are now spread across western, central and eastern parts of the country with extremely limited opportunities for employment.

“Seventy per cent of WFP’s beneficiaries are women and children and they are extremely food insecure,” WFP Country Director Rahman Chowdhury said. “Any discontinuation of food assistance will seriously affect their health and nutritional well being.”

If the situation fails to improve, WFP’s school feeding programme, which covers 5,300 primary schoolchildren, will also come to a halt. Children regularly attending school receive a basket of take-home commodities.

“School enrolment and attendance has registered a marked improvement since the launch of the programme. The nutrition of these children has improved considerably in recent months. But all that could be lost if we do not continue this programme,” Mr. Chowdhury said.

ENDS

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