Relative Need: WFP cuts aid to Armenia, citing economic growth and worse conditions elsewhere

The United Nations World Food Programme has been forced to curtail its aid to Armenia, during a harsh winter in which many relied on regular supplies provided by WFP.

WFP, the largest humanitarian organization in the world and providing food to more than 90 million needy people in 80 poor countries, says it now has limited supplies for its Armenia program.

“WFP’s food basket should be made up of flour, oil and pulse – these are the basic foods we need to survive. But since January a lack of resources has meant we haven’t been able to provide a full food basket for many of our beneficiaries,” said Muzaffar Choudhery, WFP Country Director in Armenia. “Without food assistance, poor households are barely coping, and the situation is being aggravated by a very harsh winter.”

According to Choudhery, out of desperation, people in Armenia borrow food from small shopkeepers and neighbors or sell assets, such as household plots. “Many people have already sold what they have, which has made the current situation more dire,” he said.

According to the representatives of the organization the WFP has been implementing projects in Armenia since 1993 and annually provides food in average to the 275,900 most needy.

In the recent years aid was distributed among the poorest people in the neediest regions of Armenia – Lori, Shirak, Tavush and Gegharkunik.

The office implements Food for Work and Food for Education projects to facilitate self-sustenance as well as the school food program that encourages regular attendance and proper nutrition of children in rural areas.

Beginning from January the WFP provides aid to only 65,000 people, the greater part of which are children of pre-school age in rural areas and old people, while almost 45,000 people, including 5,000 kindergarten kids have not received help, the WFP office told ArmeniaNow.

WFP officials say the parent organization evaluates conditions world-wide and then decides which countries are most in need of help. Because Armenia’s economic index has risen sharply (double-digit GDP for five consecutive years) and at a time of wide-spread natural disasters in other countries, WFP determined Armenia’s needy were less needy than others.

“WFP is helping the poorest of the poor in Armenia – those with no work and no money to buy food or cover other basic needs,” said Choudhery. “One woman told me it’s minus six degrees in her home. People just don’t have money to heat their homes. Without adequate food, their lives are even tougher.”

To keep the situation under control the office has sent messages in different directions of the world informing on the situation in the republic and the people in need.

The WFP has exhausted the greater part of the food aid provided for 110,000 people and has alarmed both foreign and local donors, asking for more than $4 million for providing food to the most needy people in the country during the next six months to bring the two-year $11 million program to its end.