The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) on Thursday welcomed US government contributions in May totaling $32.4 million to feed people confronting critical humanitarian situations ranging from severe drought to conflict in Kenya, Chad, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe and Colombia.
The latest series of major donations, from the Office of Food for Peace at the US Agency for International Development (USAID), bring total American contributions to WFP operations for the year to $670 million. The United States is WFP’s single largest donor.
“For more than half a century, the US government’s Food for Peace program has reached out to save millions of lives in times of crisis and need – helping more than 3 billion people in 135 countries,” said Jordan Dey, Director of US Relations for WFP.
“Once again, as it does year round, the US government has come through for the hungry and destitute in six countries facing a range of major humanitarian challenges.”
The biggest US donation in May, of $15.2 million, is for Zimbabwe, where WFP’s food assistance targets vulnerable sectors of the population hit hard by the devastating combination of poverty, chronic and recurring food insecurity, erratic weather and the ravages of HIV/AIDS.
Food insecurity is expected to rise significantly this year in the wake of poor harvests caused by severe drought, especially in the traditionally dry southern provinces.
Recurring drought also underpins the ongoing food emergency in Kenya’s arid pastoral regions. The US donation of $5.3 million is for Kenyans still recovering from losing their livestock because of consecutive failed rainy seasons that culminated in a major crisis – with massive food shortages - in 2006.
For Chad, the US government contributed $5.3 million to an emergency operation that supports Sudanese refugees fleeing the crisis in Darfur, as well as Chadians displaced in the upheaval.
The large refugee presence and recent surge in internally displaced populations in eastern Chad, along the border with Sudan, have put enormous strain on local agricultural, pasture and water resources. More than 220,000 Sudanese are encamped in eastern Chad, while as many as 140,000 Chadians have been displaced.
A US donation of $3.8 million, meanwhile, is directed to 220,000 people in the Central African Republic (CAR) suffering the combined effects of political instability and violence, the spread of HIV/AIDS and deep-rooted poverty.
WFP’s relief and recovery program in CAR – the world’s 7th poorest nation – seeks to improve food access in post-conflict zones, as well as promote women’s access to literacy and training.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), a US donation of $1.6 million is aimed at populations still trying to rebuild their lives and crumbling infrastructure after years of internal conflict. WFP’s program in DRC supports more than one million of the most vulnerable populations.
The US government also confirmed a contribution of $1.1 million for Colombia, to assist one of the world’s largest internally displaced populations. Forty years of internal violence have displaced 2 million to 3 million people from their homes, while poverty is on the rise due to a recent resurgence in violence.
Overall, the United States has donated $670 million in food assistance to WFP in 2007 for 31 countries, with Sudan ($316 million), Ethiopia ($64 million), Kenya ($53 million), Uganda ($34 million), and Chad ($32 million) as the top five recipients.