US wheat heads for Afghanistan but five million have no food: WFP
ISLAMABAD, July 16 (AFP) - Some 75,200 tonnes of US wheat is expected to arrive in Afghanistan but the emergency aid will feed only a fraction of the five million Afghans without food, the UN food agency said Monday.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said Afghanistan was still 1.4 million tonnes of cereal short, and five million Afghans "have little or no access to food" due to a severe drought and the ongoing civil war.
"The situation in Afghanistan is nothing short of a major crisis," said WFP country director Gerard Van Dijk. "WFP is distributing more than 20,000 tonnes of food in Afghanistan each month and we will have to increase this quantity to cope with the ever growing food insecurity in an economy shattered by drought and conflict."
The US wheat, worth about 32.8 million dollars, was expected to arrive in Pakistani and Iranian ports this week, the WFP said in a statement. Washington has now given more than 105 million dollars worth of food to the WFP's emergency operations in Afghanistan since August last year.
The United States, which co-sponsored a UN arms embargo and diplomatic sanctions against the ruling Taliban Islamic militia earlier this year, is the largest humanitarian aid donor to the strife-torn country.
Washington accuses the Taliban of drug trafficking and harbouring alleged terrorists such as Saudi millionaire Osama bin Laden. Bin Laden has been indicted in the United States for his alleged role in plotting twin US embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.
The WFP said the drought, the worst in memory, had laid waste to about half of Afghanistan's irrigated land and this year's harvest met only half the country's food needs.
Van Dijk said the cereal shortfall could have "disastrous consequences". "In order to meet the requirements of the country we will need a lot more help and aid from the international community," he said.
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