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WFP concerned about malnourished children in Sri Lanka

SRI LANKA -World Food Programme Executive-Director James Morris said today that the tsunami crisis in Sri Lanka has clearly made a "bad situation worse" for vulnerable families and children, and he is particularly concerned about its effect on malnourished children.

Morris, who toured Galle in southern Sri Lanka yesterday and Killinochchi in the north today, is on a two-day mission to assess damage, meet with donors and local officials, and review WFP's operation in the country.

The north of Sri Lanka, including Killinochchi where Morris visited today, includes some of the poorest areas of Sri Lanka. In the past, WFP has focused its assistance in this region because of the high rates of malnutrition for children.

Morris said it was imperative that vulnerable children be specifically targeted as the massive relief and rehabilitation response continues in the weeks and months ahead.

"While I'm satisfied that we have enough food in Sri Lanka to feed everyone who was affected by the tsunami, we have to ensure food gets to those who need it most, and these are the malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing mothers," said Morris.

Since December 28, WFP has dispatched enough food to the affected regions to feed 750,000 people for 15 days. WFP will continue this emergency program for 6 months, ensuring that all food needs are met for those families adversely affected by tsunami. WFP is distributing lentils, sugar, rice and vegetable oil.

In addition to the regular food ration, WFP will give corn-soya blend to malnourished children, pregnant women and lactating mothers in the areas of highest vulnerability.

Morris noted that in the tsunami-affected districts there are more than 1.1 million children under five, and 35%, or 392,000 are undernourished, which mean they do not eat enough food on a daily basis. The national average for children who are most severely affected, suffering from "wasting," is 14%, but this jumps to 22% in the northeast.

In Killinochchi, Morris met with S.P. Thamilcevam, the leader of the LTTE's political wing.

Approximately 500,000 are still homeless in Sri Lanka, either living in camps or with other families.

WFP is delivering food to 14 municipal districts, including Ampara, Batticaloa, Colombo, Galle, Gampha, Hambantota, Jaffna, Kalutara, Kilinochchi, Matara, Mullaitivu, Puttalam, Trincomalee, and Vavuniya.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school -- a gift of hope for a brighter future.

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For more information please contact:

Caroline Hurford
WFP Rome
Mob: +39 348 132 5018

Heather Hill
WFP Thailand
Mob: +66 1701 9208
Mobile + 662 659 8690

Jordan Dey
WFP Sri Lanka

Trevor Rowe
WFP New York
Mob: +1 646 8241112
office: +1 212 963 5196

Gregory Barrow
Tel. +44-20-75929292
Mob. +44-7968-008474

Christiane Berthiaume
Tel. +41-22-9178564
Mob. +41-79-2857304