Bangladesh: Legendary gymnast distributes China's food aid

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WFP's first Chinese Ambassador Against Hunger, the legendary gymnast Li Ning, visited Bangladesh recently to meet some of the 400,000 women and children who have received China's help through WFP.

by Anthea Webb

DHAKA - Li Ning made a three-day trip to Bangladesh in early December to see how food assistance supplied by China is given to WFP beneficiaries to support them as they undergo vocational training aimed at making them independent and less food insecure.

"Today I met women and children who struggle each day to get enough to eat. They were grateful for China's aid, and told me how WFP's project is helping them to build a better future," said Li Ning.

"China gave 400,000 people a helping hand, not a hand out. Without food to feed their families while they attended training, many women would not be able to learn the skills and confidence they need to earn a decent income," said John Aylieff, WFP Bangladesh Representative.

2 million dollars

Li Ning, who became an Ambassador Against Hunger earlier this year, was accompanied by representatives of the Chinese Embassy and Ministry of Agriculture, which has donated more than US$2 million to WFP Bangladesh over the past two years.

The former gymnast learned about the work WFP is doing to help people in Bangladesh -- one of the countries worst affected by climate change and natural disasters -- to adapt their lives to more frequent floods and cyclones. He visited an emergency shelter that WFP is helping a community build so that the next time disaster strikes, fewer lives are lost.

Over the past 35 years, WFP and the Government of Bangladesh have built 4,120 km of irrigation channels and 17,000 km of embankments to channel water and protect flood-prone areas.

30 years of cooperation

WFP is assisting 4 million poor people in Bangladesh this year to provide for their families. Nutrition programmes improve the health of young children, pregnant and nursing women - a vital step in reducing undernutrition which affects 30 percent of the population.

China and WFP have cooperated for the past 30 years, assisting 30 million people within China and, since 2006, a growing number of people through WFP operations in other developing countries. In 2008, China donated almost US $10 million to WFP and so far in 2009 it has contributed US $3 million.