ADB Targets 500,000 Cambodians for Emergency Food Relief

The Asian Development Bank’s $40 million Emergency Food As­sistance Project for Cambodia is fully under way and is expected to make its first food distributions at the end of October, the Project Team’s Mission Leader Mahfuz Ahmed said Wednesday.

“It is a time of great need for Cambodia, and we are pleased to help,” ADB Country Representa­tive Arjun Goshwami told a news conference, adding that there was an urgent need to implement the project.

The project, financed with $35 million from the ADB and $5 million from the government, aims to mitigate the effect of rising food pri­ces among the poorest 20 percent of the Cambodian population.

Food distribution and food productivity enhancement support will continue until 2011 and reach about 500,000 people in seven provinces around the Tonle Sap lake, the area worst hit by food price inflation, alongside slum areas in Phnom Penh, the ADB said.

Enhancing the response capability of government institutions to food crises is another project component, Mahfuz Ahmed said at the conference. The most vulnerable households in communities around the Tonle Sap lake will be targeted with the help of poverty mapping data, and the ADB will work to­gether with the central and local government, the UN and NGOs.

Households in the Tonle Sap basin have lost 23 percent of their purchasing power because of increases in the price of food, while the figure nationwide is about 15 percent, Mahfuz Ah­med said in an interview following the news conference.

The food security of about 2.6 million people is under threat, and poor households nationwide have lost an estimated $506 million in purchasing power, according to a recent ADB presentation of the project.

The project would also support the UN World Food Program’s school-feeding program and provide food to early childhood learning centers in provinces around Tonle Sap lake.

WFP Acting Country Director Bradley Busetto said by telephone Wednesday that the de­tails of cooperation with ADB on the school breakfast program and other food security programs still had to be sorted out.

Busetto said the feeding programs at 1,344 schools nationwide had resumed Oct 1. The program also includes a take-away ration to 20,000 students from the most “food-insecure” families in grades four through six, a WFP news release from Tuesday said.

The malnutrition rate in Cam­bodia remains high, as 44 percent of children are chronically malnourished according to the latest figures from the UN World Health Organization, the WFP re­lease said.

Inflationary pressures were clearly slowing the Cambodian economy down, Arjun Goshwami said in response to questions from reporters, adding that ADB estimates that Cambodia’s economic growth could sink to 6.5 percent this year.

In February, the government had projected 7.3 percent GDP for 2008, compared with 9.7 percent in 2007.

Ministry of Finance Deputy Secretary-General Vong Sandap, who is also director of the government’s Emergency Food Assis­tance Project, said the ADB project was important and would help the poorest people, as well as strengthen the government’s ability to re­spond to food crises.

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