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Food Aid to Pakistan Hurt by Funding Shortfall

A child sits along a road median as he eats his breakfast of a single piece of "roti" (South Asian bread) while waiting for work in Karachi early morning May 6, 2012.
The World Food Program says a funding shortfall has forced the U.N. agency to cut aid to thousands of people in Pakistan, including those fleeing violence in the northwest.

WFP spokesman Amjad Jamal told VOA Urdu Service Wednesday that the agency needs $70 million to sustain its humanitarian programs in Pakistan for the next six months.

He says WFP has already been forced to cut some of its projects since June, including food aid for families displaced by the counterinsurgency operations in the country's northwestern tribal agencies. Many are also victims of record flooding that submerged one-fifth of Pakistan in 2010. Some of the same areas were again hit by heavy rains and floods last year.

WFP spokesman Jamal says women and children are the most vulnerable. He says the funding shortfall undermines the close to 1.3 million children across Pakistan who receive food aid when they attend school.

Under the program, children from poor families are given energy biscuits and other food items when they enroll, further encouraging them to continue their education. Children also receive cooking oil to take home to their families.

Jamal says, "we are worried that the lack of funding could also affect their education program. It's a serious concern for us and we are talking to donors to tell them that whenever there is a conflict or disaster, women and children suffer the most."

The WFP spokesman says the timing of the aid is particularly critical with students set to return to school in September.