ISLAMABAD: The Australian Government will provide US$ 8.5 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in support of its programme in FATA and Balochistan. The agreement was signed by Australian High Commissioner Ms. Zorica McCarthy and WFP Representative Wolfgang Herbinger at a ceremony held in Peshawar. Honourable governor of NWFP Mr. Owais Ahmed Ghani was present on the occasion. The ceremony was also attended by members of the provincial cabinet, FATA secretariat and WFP officials.
The Australian High Commissioner said “the Australian Government accords a high priority both to meeting humanitarian needs and supporting the Government of Pakistan, and is pleased to respond to an urgent request from the World Food Programme and the Government of Pakistan.”
Balochistan and FATA are amongst the most poorly-developed and food-insecure regions of Pakistan. The decline in rainfall over the past decade has reduced agricultural incomes and employment opportunities. This contribution will help address severe food shortages and improve access to health and education services and livelihood opportunities in these areas.
“We are thankful to the government of Australia for this generous support to our programmes in FATA and Balochistan. With this contribution WFP will be able to purchase over 5,000 tons of nutritious food for poor people living in these areas.” said WFP Pakistan Country Director, Wolfgang Herbinger. WFP’s operations in FATA and Balochistan have also received generous donations from the Government of Canada in cash and the Government of Pakistan in kind.
“The border areas have suffered from years of insecurity and lack of development opportunities. Enhancing economic development opportunities and improving access to quality health and education services is crucial to reversing this situation,” said Ms. McCarthy. WFP has started its two-year programme in FATA and parts of Balochistan. The project will assist tens of thousands of poor parents with a can of oil for each month their children attend primary school. Food incentives will also be used to encourage participation in prenatal and primary health care activities while infants and nursing mothers from food insecure households will be provided with nutritious blended foods.
Although security remains a major challenge for WFP to implement this programme, the organization, supported by Australia, is committed to help those in need. Australia will provide estimated Aus $25 million in development assistance to Pakistan in 2007-08 and plans to significantly increase its aid program in future years. In Pakistan, WFP assists over four million food insecure people annually. However, increasing food prices have the potential to pull more people into poverty, and to deepen food insecurity among already vulnerable groups. WFP is in the need of additional funding of US$ 23.3 million dollars to address the increased needs of the poorest Pakistanis because of the food price crisis.-SANA