Global Policy Forum

Drastic Cuts in Rations as WFP Faces Pipeline Breaks

Integrated Regional Information Networks
April 2, 2004

The twin setbacks of insufficient funding and a government ban on genetically modified (GM) foods have put the World Food Programme's (WFP) live-saving operations in Angola at risk, forcing the agency to halve rations to beneficiaries in April and May.

WFP spokesman Richard Lee said its operations in Angola faced a "severe funding crisis, which has forced the agency to drastically reduce rations" to its beneficiaries. So far the agency has only received 24 percent, or US $35 million of the US $143 million appeal for Angola in 2004.

For the next two months WFP will only provide 50 percent rations to both returning refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), who make up the vast majority of WFP's 1.9 million beneficiaries in Angola.

"Without additional donations, WFP will provide no cereal ration to these beneficiaries in June and July. WFP will also provide only 50 percent rations of other commodities [vegetable oil, pulses etc]," Lee warned.

Besides the funding crisis, a recently announced ban on GM food by the government has had an impact on WFP's food aid pipeline, although the new regulations have not been officially gazetted.

A shipment of 19,000 mt of maize donated by the United States has already been affected. The US does not distinguish between GM and non-GM in its aid and is the largest maize donor to WFP's Angolan operation.

"The US was planning to send a donation of 19,000 mt of maize to Angola. The Angolan government agreed that the shipment would be allowed [into Angola], given the exceptional circumstances, but the maize would have to be milled before distribution," Lee said.

However, milling the maize would incur "substantial extra costs" and result in "a lengthy delay due to the limited milling capacity in Angola".

In view of the uncertainty around the new import regulations for GM foods, the US decided to substitute the maize with another shipment of either milled maize meal or sorghum.

"However, since there will be some delay, WFP has been forced to cut rations more drastically than originally planned," Lee added. WFP was going to cut by 30 percent in April and May due to the funding crisis, but the agency will now provide only half-rations to most beneficiaries.

"Essentially, the funding crisis means we will not be able to provide all the food we want to to returnees - both IDPs as well as refugees returning from neighbouring countries - and, clearly, this will make it more difficult for them to start rebuilding their lives," Lee explained.

Apart from the obvious aim of providing beneficiaries with "the necessary nutrition", food aid also "gives them the chance to concentrate on rebuilding their homes, communities, schools, and getting agriculture started again", he added.

Although people were "unlikely to starve" as a result of the cut in rations in April, Lee said, "clearly they will have to spend more time finding food for themselves and their families, rather than beginning the long and difficult task of rebuilding, which will obviously delay the whole reconstruction of Angola."

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