World Bulletin/News Desk
Funding shortfalls have forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut rations for up to 1 million people in Afghanistan, an official said, an early sign that aid money may dwindle as the international combat mission winds down.
The U.N. food assistance agency, which runs on donations from member countries, faces a gap of about $30 million for its programme in Afghanistan, country director Claude Jibidar told Reuters in an interview.
"We have had to cut down the rations of the people we are assisting, just so that we can buy some time, so we don't stop altogether," Jibidar said.
He said the cuts, to 1,500 calories a day from 2,100, would affect up to 1 million people, many of whom have had to flee their homes because of the escalating war between the Taliban and the Western-backed Afghan government.
"Food is something that everybody needs every single day, so it is serious," Jibidar said late on Monday.
For those displaced by the war, the prospect that food aid could stop is grim.
"If the food rations get stopped, we will die of hunger," said Bibi Fatima, an elderly woman who lives with eight family members in a mud hut on Kabul's eastern outskirts.
The family was forced to flee their home in Helmand, a southern province where fighting has been fierce, and they have no income except what Fatima's grandchildren bring in from begging on the streets.
She said she had received food from a U.N. agency in past winters, and was counting on help this coming season.
"We don't have firewood and food to eat. If our children get sick, we have no money to treat them."
With Afghanistan's harsh winter looming, Jibidar said the WFP has only about six weeks left in which to deposit advance stores of food meant to supply mountainous areas of Afghanistan that usually get cut off for months at a time.
Afghanistan has been the recipient of tens of billions of dollars in aid since 2001, when the Taliban's government was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion.
The country remains in great need. The WFP helps feed a total of 3.7 million Afghans, or about 10 percent of the population.
With most foreign combat troops due to withdraw at the end of this year, many humanitarian groups fear aid flows will dry up as donors become fatigued and focus on other crises, including combating the Ebola virus and helping refugees from the wars in Syria and Iraq.
Aid workers say a drastic slide in aid money could reverse many of the social gains of the last 13 years.
"It is important, at this critical period, that Afghanistan is not forgotten," Jibidar said.Güncelleme Tarihi: 14 Ekim 2014, 16:37