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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - WFP stops food deliveries to orphanages

WFP stops food deliveries to orphanages

The UN's World Food Programme (WFP) will cut around 4,000 tons of annual food aid

to orphanages, street children's programs and to the national leprosy program by

the end of March. The organization said that meant around 50 orphanages around the

country would no longer receive shipments of rice, oil and fish.

WFP country director Rebecca Hansen said the decision was due to a shift in program

focus to education, health and disaster mitigation, and would affect only 3 percent

of WFP beneficiaries. She said WFP had informed all 150 partners in January 2002

that funding might be phased out this year.

"It is not just a question of cutting, cutting, cutting - it is more importantly

a question of really seriously looking at what we do to make the most impact, to

make the most difference," Hansen said. "Orphanages is one area we said

we don't feel is making the best use of food aid. In terms of long-term sustainability

and dependency, WFP needs to move away from a welfare kind of support."

But the government and many NGOs told the Post they were only officially told of

funding cuts in mid-January 2003, and would have difficulties finding alternative

food funding before the end of March. Many said the decision would cause a crisis.

Cheam Kosal, general director of local NGO Krousar Thmey, said at least 1,000 children

in its protection centers, schools and family houses would be affected. In 2002 the

WFP provided the NGO with $22,000 worth of food aid in the form of oil, rice and

canned fish.

"We have a problem [after March] because we have to find more funding because

approximately 1,000 children are under our support," Kosal said. "That

is a lot of children. We are having difficulty finding extra funds because we did

not know about the decision of the WFP until recently."

Sebastién Marot, coordinator of street children's NGO Mith Samlanh/Friends,

said he was still unclear to what extent the aid would be cut. Around 800 children

a day at the center rely on food aid from the UN body.

"For us it means two things: either we rapidly find more funding or we have

to cut food, therefore reduce the number of children in the center," Marot said.

"I don't want to say we will have to cut the number of children because that

is unbearable.

"We will need to buy it ourselves and this will cost $15,000 per year for rice

[alone]. The problem we are facing is that food is one of the most difficult budget

lines to fund - it is the line donors don't like to fund because it is unsustainable,

it is ongoing."

Keo Borentr, general director of social affairs and youth rehabilitation at the Ministry

of Social Affairs and Labor, said 20 state-run orphanages would lose WFP food funding.

As yet the government has not been able to get other donors to make up the shortfall.

"It can badly affect our orphanages because we receive some allowance from the

state, but it is very small and it cannot support the living conditions of the orphanages,"

Borentr said.

Hansen said she understood many organizations were now in a difficult situation,

but explained that the decision was part of worldwide shift in WFP's funding allocation.

The organization, she explained, used to focus on development intervention, but now

"the vast majority of our resources go to supporting humanitarian relief".

She said WFP contributed $995 million worldwide in 1991 to development work, a figure

that had dropped to $203 million by 2002.

WFP has been working in Cambodia since 1979. In 2002, it supplied 39,750 tons of

food aid throughout the country. That figure will drop to 32,500 this year.

WFP will continue funding the school feeding program and national TB program. However

the Work for Food program will see a shift away from food for road building projects,

and towards more support for water and sanitation programs.

Also, said Hansen, under an existing agreement the WFP will cease assistance in June

to vocational training and adult literacy programs. Finally, food funding for teacher

training activities will end in July.



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