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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will start distributing food this month to some 80,000 vulnerable people in the most food-insecure parts of Tajikistan, following an unusually long and harsh winter.

“WFP is committed to giving critical support to the vulnerable people after this harsh winter,” said WFP Country Director Alzira Ferreira. “Tajikistan’s millions have been forced to spend more on fuel to keep warm in extremely low temperatures and with food prices remaining very high in Tajikistan, more people are unable to buy enough nutritious food to sustain themselves and their families.”

The one-time distribution will include a two-month supply of fortified wheat flour, vitamin-rich vegetable oil, pulses and iodized salt (a total of 2,000 metric tons). The assistance will be provided in the Rasht Valley, Sughd and Khatlon regions, where many families lost crops and livestock due to heavy snow and early frost and communities were cut off for months at a time by avalanches.

Given the high prevalence of chronic malnutrition, which leads to stunted growth, in the Rasht Valley WFP will target children under two years old with fortified blended food under a special supplementary feeding programme, as well as providing their families with rations.

Ferreira paid tribute to Tajikistan’s two largest donors, Japan and the Russian Federation, for providing resources required for the food distribution. “These generous contributions will help WFP strengthen its social protection programmes to mitigate the impact of high food prices on the poorest families and help them after the harsh winter months,” she said.

In advance of the harvest, the food distributions will serve to help people bridge the “lean season” – the period after winter before fresh produce arrives in the markets.

WFP and local government partners will work together to identify families to benefit from the Vulnerable Group Feeding programme. In partnership with the local authorities (Hukumats), WFP will provide assistance to poor families with little land and few animals.

The districts were prioritized according to the findings of the Food Security Monitoring System conducted in March 2012, using village-level household surveys of food consumption, income and assets to determine levels of food security in the country.

In 2012, WFP is working on the development of food-for-work activities in agriculture to build resilience in areas where people struggle to feed their families.