Fund Shortage Leaves 700,000 in Food Limbo

The World Food Program has exhausted available funds for its feeding programs in Cambodia, leaving at least 700,000 people reliant on the programs in limbo as the UN agency struggles to raise more money, a WFP official said Thursday.

Thomas Keusters, WFP country director, said that funding for the programs, which has been dwindling since late last year, has now completely dried up.

“We have come to a standstill, basically,” Keusters said, adding that feeding programs halted entirely Thursday.

The WFP fed a total of 1.1 million people in 2006, Keusters said. But those most affected by the lack of funds this year are 650,000 schoolchildren, who formerly received meals from the WFP year-round, and nearly 100,000 AIDS and tuberculosis patients who received rations from the WFP during courses of medical treatment.

The WFP warned late last month that the programs would end this month unless donors came up with $10 million in aid. The money, Keusters said, has failed to materialize.

The WFP hopes to resume its programs in Cambodia as early as May, he said. Whether that is possible, however, will depend on donors.

“There are indications that we will get something from Japan by February,” he said, adding that it takes several months to process and put into use any funds that are received.

Kenichi Kobayashi, second secretary at the Japanese Embassy, said the Japanese government has been alerted to the WFP’s need for new funding in Cambodia, but has not yet made a decision.

The US-based International Food Policy Research Institute listed the hunger situation in Cambodia as “extremely alarming” in its 2006 Global Hunger Index of 119 countries, according to its Web site.

Duch Bunna, deputy bureau chief of primary schools at Kom­pong Speu’s provincial education department, said 33,402 children at 62 schools in the province will be affected by the halt in the programs. “We are worried about the shortage of food. There is no way for us to help the children,” he said.


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