INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Prt/Chaghcharan: Food Shortage in Western

Published: Sat 23 Dec 2006 07:00 AM
VZCZCXYZ0000
RR RUEHWEB
DE RUEHBUL #5928/01 3570700
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230700Z DEC 06
FM AMEMBASSY KABUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5032
INFO RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/OSD WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS 0039
RUEHRK/AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK 0007
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 3454
UNCLAS KABUL 005928
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
STATE FOR SCA/FO (DAS GASTRIGHT), SCA/A
STATEPASS TO USAID FOR AID/ANE, AID/CDHA/DG
NSC FOR HARRIMAN
OSD FOR KIMMITT
CENTCOM FOR CG CFC-A, CG CJTF-76, POLAD
REL NATO/ISAF
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL AF
SUBJECT: PRT/CHAGHCHARAN: FOOD SHORTAGE IN WESTERN
AFGHANISTAN
1. SUMMARY: (U) World Food Program (WFP) and Afghan
government officials alike recognize the current
vulnerability to food shortages faced particularly ) though
not exclusively ) by Afghanistan's western provinces. The
onset of winter is now exacerbating the effects of the
lengthy drought. Badghis and Ghor provinces appear to be the
worst off, with Ghor facing the potential of months-long
isolation because of blocked mountain passes. WFP is
speeding food aid to the area and is optimistic that it can
meet its targets for sufficient food assistance to the
western provinces. WFP says the real challenge is in the
February-April time frame, when local food stocks are likely
to run low. This underscores the need for a more robust
response to WFP's extended drought appeal. END SUMMARY
Epicenter of the Food Shortage
2. (U) WFP officials in Kabul and Deputy Minister for Rural
Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD) Rahimi have confirmed
what embassy PRT officers have been reporting: the four
western provinces of Herat, Badghis, Ghor and Farah are
increasingly vulnerable to food shortages. The long drought,
which one can only hope might now be easing, has exacerbated
these provinces, chronic food insecurity. Badghis and Ghor,
the latter seen by many as the epicenter of the food
shortage, face an especially serious situation, given the
difficulty of getting food into the two provinces during the
winter. At a meeting with Poloff and U.S. PRT rep, Ghor
province's six members of the National Assembly,s Wolesi
Jirga (Lower House) claimed some Ghor residents were
preparing to leave in the face of the potential food shortage.
World Food Program to the Rescue
3. (U) For its part, WFP officials in Kabul are optimistic
about dealing with the major food needs in these vulnerable
areas at least until spring, when the snow melts and the
passes reopen. This upbeat view, however, presupposes there
are no further delays caused by security issues or customs
officials stopping trucks for reasons, as
happened recently at the border post of Torkam between
Peshawar and Jalalabad. Resolving that incident required
direct intervention by MRRD with the Ministry of Finance.
4. (U) WFP is giving high priority to Ghor and Badghis. WFP
reports it has already delivered approximately 4,000 mts to
the two provinces, and another 3,000 mts is reportedly
arriving at a forward support base in Herat and will be moved
on immediately to Ghor and Badghis. Another 7,500 mts is
also planned for delivery to the two provinces. These
deliveries will help carry them through to the end of this
year. Additionally, the Spanish PRT in Badghis Province has
made a cash contribution intended to support a further 650
mts in WFP deliveries. In total, about 15,000 mts have made
or are making their way to the two provinces. Included in
that total is about USD 50,000 in WFP distributed food for
Ghor being provided as part of a Lithuanian-financed
food-for-work school construction project launched in October.
5. (U) WFP says it has the logistical resources to move 500
mts per day into Ghor and Badghis and is committed to
continuing to do so until snow prevents access. WFP also
reports it has reached an informal understanding with the
ISAF/Herat forward base for the airlifting of food to Ghor
and Badghis, though only in the range of 50)100 mts, and
only if a true emergency develops.
Kabul Reacts
6. (U) The central government understands the area's
vulnerability and is making an effort to respond. Naseer
Popal, emergency response advisor to MRRD Minister Zia,
visited Ghor,s capital of Chaghcharan to assess the
situation. He indicated to PRT reps on 11/18 that he has
arranged for five additional vehicles to be made available to
MRRD's team in Ghor and five more supervisors have been
allocated to monitor and facilitate food distribution,
permitting one for each of Ghor,s 10 districts. He is also
looking for assistance to help keep five mountain passes open
in the direction of Herat. According to Popal,s figures, in
addition to 2,000 mts of WFP provided food already
distributed via the Ministry of Education through local
schools, another 1,000 mts of WFP food was provided to Ghor
over the last several weeks, and another 4,000 mts is in the
pipeline for delivery before the end of December. World
Vision's representative in Chaghcharan has confirmed the NGO
will accede to MRRD's request to make one of its local
warehouses available as a transit point for the food.
Bottom Line: Suffereing Contained?
7. (U) WFP maintains that even in the most vulnerable
provinces, there is no evidence of impending starvation or
famine. This is not to say that human suffering and some
degree of deprivation are not taking and will not continue to
take place, particularly in remote areas. For his part,
World Vision's representative in Chaghcharan discounts claims
that up to 90 percent of the province's population will be
affected. He the real figure is closer to
65 percent. He too discounts the likelihood of mass
starvation, noting Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
and other projections based on extrapolations from this
year's food production. He points as well to the remarkable
toughness of the Afghan population and predicts that, with
reasonable levels of assistance, most will muddle through.
At this stage WFP officials see the biggest danger in the
February-April period.
8. (U) To the extent that WFP shifts food assistance from
areas of chronic food insecurity to areas hardest hit by the
drought, this tends to stretch the capacity of their overall
food assistance program throughout the country. Thus, WFP
underscores the need for a greater response to the drought
appeal. The USG has heard that appeal and already provided
considerable food assistance to Afghanistan (through WFP)
both as a response to chronic food insecurity (about USD 50
million in FY6) and to the drought appeal itself (about USD
18 million since July 2006). To date, responses to the
drought appeal and its October extension request, however,
have been quite limited from other donor countries.
NORLAND
NORLAND
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