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Urgent food aid to G.Bissau stalled due to lacking funds: UN

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United Nations said Tuesday that it had been forced to delay desperately-needed food aid to nearly 300,000 people in Guinea Bissau since it so far had received no donations to support the operation.

"The assistance was due to start on March 1, 2013, but operations are stalled because, so far, (we have) not received any donor support for the operation," Elisabeth Byrs, spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Programme, told reporters in Geneva.

The WFP was urgently seeking $7.1 million to provide food and nutrition aid to 278,000 people across the troubled west African nation this year, "including to young mothers and children at increased risk of malnutrition", she said.

"But we can't buy food without paying for it," she said.

The country is considered one of the world's poorest, with a full 69 percent of the 1.6 million inhabitants living on less than two dollars a day, and 33 percent living on less than one dollar, Byrs said.

A coup last April caused further turmoil in the country, which has suffered chronic instability since independence from Portugal in 1974 due to conflict between the army and state.

No president has ever completed a full term in office.

"Over the past few years, Guinea Bissau... has suffered a series of shocks resulting in a worsened food and nutrition situation for many vulnerable people," she said, pointing out that the situation had gone downhill after a recent poor harvest of cashew nuts -- the country's main export good.

"Many households have no choice but to sell their livestock and other essential assets to put food on the family table," she said.

Byrs said a full six percent of the country's population was suffering from acute malnutrition, with the rate rising to eight percent in some regions.

The WFP aims to provide meals to 85,000 children through school feeding programmes, including take-home rations to girls to help boost their access to schooling, she said.

It also wants to provide food supplements to some 5,000 malnourished children under the age of five and for 1,960 malnourished pregnant women and new mothers, she said

In 2012, the UN agency reached 211,300 people through school feeding, health and nutrition and community projects using food assistance in exchange for labour, she said.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130326/urgent-food-aid-gbissau-stalled-due-lacking-funds-un