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A million Cambodians face hunger, says UN agency

A million Cambodians face hunger, says UN agency

The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) says it is in desperate need of $10 million

to provide 1.1 million Cambodians with food until July.

Cambodia is one of the 12 "hunger hotspot" countries listed as "extremely

alarming" in the 2006 Global Hunger Index of the International Food Policy Research

Institute.

With nearly 35 percent of its people living below the poverty line, Cambodia is classified

as a least developed and low-income, food-deficit country. It ranks 129th out of

177 countries in the 2006 UN Development Program Human Development Index.

In a January 21 statement WFP said if money is not received soon, 700,000 Cambodians

- mostly children and HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis patients - will start going without

essential sustenance.

WFP says the situation is likely to worsen unless it gets millions of dollars in

donations, as donor support for WFP in Cambodia has diminished alarmingly since 2005.

"Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries, and these people rely on

the WFP's help to keep them coming to school and getting HIV and TB treatment,"

WFP Executive Director James Morris said in the statement from New York.

WFP has already had to cut the numbers of those receiving aid. Morris said a lack

of new donations could force some 650,000 children on school feeding programs, as

well as 70,000 people affected by HIV/AIDS and 18,000 TB patients, to go without

food.

"Hundreds of thousands of children in Cambodia count on the nutritious meal

provided to them by the WFP," WFP Cambodia Country Director Thomas Keusters

said in the statement.

"We want to restore this... assistance for children, for the very sick, and

for the desperately poor, but we can only do this with the immediate... support of

the international community."

WFP told the Voice of America (VOA) that if the WFP program is eliminated in schools,

parents would probably take their children from school and send them out to work

to get the money their families need to feed them, the VOA website stated.

By keeping the program going both the children's minds and bodies would continue

to be fed.

"Food and nutrition are an essential part of the package of care for people

receiving treatment for HIV and TB," Peter Piot, joint executive director of

the UN Program on HIV/AIDS, said in the WFP statement. "Ration cuts jeopardize

the effectiveness of these critical interventions."

WFP said many TB and HIV patients continue coming to WFP health posts to receive

a full course of treatment because of the food aid provided.

This incentive is particularly important in combating TB, because drug-resistant

variants of the disease develop among patients who do not complete their treatment.

Treatment of resistant strains of TB can cost up to 100 times more than ordinary

strains.

A funding shortage since October 2006 has forced WFP to progressively reduce rations,

and they now need at least $10 million to distribute some 18,000 tons of food to

1.1 million Cambodians until July 2007.

The Post tried to talk to WFP in Phnom Penh, but they were on their annual "retreat"

in Sihanoukville and were unavailable for comment.

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