Lack of funds forces UN agency to halt food aid to 140000

Food distribution for 140,000 Azerbaijanis displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Armenia a decade ago will come to a complete halt next month because of a $10 million shortfall in aid sought for the three-year operation by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). “We have tried everything, even halving the rations last month, but we just don’t have enough food stocks left to go around,” WFP Country Director Rahman Chowdhury said. “Most of the displaced are so poor they don’t have the means to buy food. It’s a dreadful situation, especially in winter, when temperatures drop to minus 20 degrees celsius.” Three quarters of those affected are women and children, a large number of them still living in makeshift shelters like railway cars and dugouts. Only WFP ‘s school feeding programme that supplies food to 5,300 primary school children will continue, but on a limited scale. One essential ingredient of the take-home rations, which are being provided to the youngsters five days a week, is vitamin-fortified wheat soya blend, whose stocks will also run out in January, Mr. Chowdhury said. WFP sought $21 million for the operation, which started in January 2003. Since 1994, the agency has been pivotal in assisting hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict in which more than 600,000 people fled from Nagorno-Karabakh the region, now occupied by Armenia, to other parts of Azerbaijan. Most of the displaced live in remote areas of western Azerbaijan, such as Agjabedi and Imishli regions, where employment possibilities are extremely limited. read more