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Other Afghan Humanitarian Programs Suffer Amid Funding Shortfall, WFP Says - 2002-07-03

The U.N. World Food Program said it has been forced to suspend some of its projects in Afghanistan because it is running out of money.

The World Food Program said all the money it has on hand has to go to maintain basic feeding programs for millions of people who depend on this food for their survival.

WFP spokeswoman Christiane Berthiaume said the shortage of money means that most projects not directly related to these programs will have be cut.

"Because we do not have enough money, we have cut all those programs that are helpful for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the country. Programs that we call Food for Work. People are paid in food to repair a house, a road, a school, a clinic. Or again, we had a fantastic project for school feeding for one million kids. A big part of that program is on hold because we do not have the money," she said.

Under WFP's school feeding program, parents had an incentive to allow their children to attend school because they knew they would get food. Ms. Berthiaume said she is particularly worried about what will happen to young girls now that the project is being halted.

If WFP is unable to feed them, she fears many parents will send their daughters to work. Or, in some cases, she said parents will sell their daughters to get food.

Earlier in the year, WFP appealed for $285 million U.S. dollars to feed about nine million Afghans, but it is still about $100 million short of that goal.

Ms. Berthiaume said the United States has contributed 40 percent of the money received. The rest has come from Japan and the countries of Western Europe. She said Arab countries as well as most Asian countries have contributed nothing.

"It is important that donor countries and now, we are especially calling to Gulf countries and Asia, to do their share. Thanks to the generosity of the international community, we have avoided a famine last year. So, let us not go back to there. We need help," Ms. Berthiaume said.

The WFP spokeswoman said Afghanistan has entered the so-called hunger season, the period before the harvest when most people in Afghanistan have eaten all their food reserves. She said money is critically needed now to tide people over until the harvest in August.