The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced a US$1.1 million purchase of 4,000 metric tons of locally grown wheat in Hirat, Afghanistan, as a way of overcoming continuing security problems hampering food deliveries, while at the same time supporting poor Afghan farmers.

"Extended drought and conflict has had a devastating effect on Afghanistan's wheat crop in recent years. But this year, we have had a better harvest, and WFP can buy a significant quantity of wheat locally," said Rick Corsino, WFP Afghanistan Country Director. "WFP makes every effort to buy wheat locally or regionally wherever it can do so without disrupting markets."

"The purchase of wheat from Hirat has also been well timed," Corsino added. " Insecurity on the southern ring road means we have been unable to move food for well over two months. With seriously depleted stocks, poor and hungry people in the west of the country have been suffering."

For the first time, WFP has also purchased 9,000 tons of wheat from Iran, which will be distributed in Badghis and Ghor provinces.

The recent break in supply affected over 100,000 people in the western region, including Afghans recently deported from Iran, vulnerable men and women who carry out community work in exchange for food, and those enrolled in vocational and literacy courses under food-for-training schemes.

"When WFP can, and when a good harvest allows, it makes good sense to purchase locally grown cereals for our assistance programmes," said Tony Banbury, WFP Asia Regional Director. "This wheat purchase will bring food to vulnerable people in Afghanistan who really need our help, and WFP's payments will help local farmers recover their livelihoods - a critical step for Afghanistan."

Insecurity in many parts of Afghanistan, where WFP aims to provide food to 5.4 million Afghans in 2007, presents a major obstacle to humanitarian deliveries and continues to threaten projects.

Since June 2006, there have been 28 security incidents involving trucks carrying WFP food. The vehicles have been attacked and looted, and seven people have died. An estimated 750 tons of food has been lost.

WFP's current three-year US$378 million Afghanistan operation is currently 64 percent funded. Donors include the United States (US$116 million), the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund-CERF (US$28.3 million, for CERF see: ochaonline.un), India (US$24.5 million), Canada (US$12.2 million), Japan (US$12.3 million), Netherlands (US$8.2 million), Switzerland (US$4.3 million), Russian Federation ($3 million), Italy (US$2.3 million), Luxembourg (US$2 million), Saudi Arabia (US$2 million), Belgium (US$1.5 million), France (US$1.3 million), and Germany (US$1.3 million ).

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: on average, each year, we give food to 90 million poor people to meet their nutritional needs, including 58 million hungry children, in 80 of the world's poorest countries. WFP - We Feed People.


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