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World Food Programme overwhelmed by aid requests from Guatemala


Geneva : The World Food Programme (WFP) has said here that requests for food donations for famine-struck Guatemala are far beyond its aid capabilities, a situation made worse by the fact that WFP reserves in that country “are at their lowest level in years”.

The Guatemalan government declared last week a “state of public calamity” because of the food scarcity that is affecting more than 54,000 poor families and has caused 25 children to die of hunger.

Under such conditions, the WFP Tuesday said it needs $10 million to finance its programme of distributing food to some 250,000 people threatened by famine in Guatemala.

Added to the dramatic effects of the economic crisis on the poorest inhabitants of the central American country is an intense drought that has destroyed crops.

Since the state of calamity was declared, the WFP, a UN agency, has delivered enough provisions for a month to 30,000 families and is getting ready in the coming weeks to distribute 200 additional tonnes for 20,000 more families, spokeswoman Emilia Casella said here.

Besides the $10 million for this emergency operation, the WFP said that it will also need $7 million to pay for the distribution of Vitaceral — a cereal reinforced with vitamins and purchased locally — to particularly vulnerable groups in Guatemala.

If it doesn’t get the financing it is asking for, the delivery of Vitaceral will be suspended in October, Casella said.

At present some 100,000 children under three years at grave risk of malnutrition and about 50,000 pregnant women and nursing mothers are receiving rations of the special cereal.