Bangladesh: WFP and government join forces on emergency assistance programme for 5 million vulnerable poor

DHAKA, Thursday, 12 March, 2009: - At a Letter of Understanding (LoU) signing ceremony attended today by the Economic Relations Division of the Ministry of Finance (ERD) Secretary, Mr. M. Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced the launch of a new emergency assistance programme covering the urgent needs of poor people affected by high food prices and natural disasters across the country.

The Emergency Operation (EMOP), valued at USS$ 179 million (Tk.1224.92 crore), will provide a variety of emergency safety nets to five million people in both urban and rural areas who are least able to feed their families. About 259,592mt of food commodities are expected to be procured and distributed to the targeted beneficiaries under the programme. Assistance will be extended in particular to women and children through targeted nutrition interventions aimed at stabilising the dramatic rise in malnutrition, which the high food price crisis has provoked.

The safety nets will include employment generation schemes, emergency school feeding and targeted relief programmes, implemented from March to December 2009.

The ERD Secretary, representing the Government at the agreement signing ceremony noted: "This is another example of our close collaboration with WFP around safety nets for the poorest and most destitute segments of the population. These joint programmes are an important contribution to tackling hunger and poverty. Despite its limited resources, the Government has committed 780, 000mt of food (rice) and Tk.36.80 crore in cash to WFP-supported programmes in the past three years. The Government urges the donor community to contribute to these new emergency safety nets which are bringing critical support to the poorest of the poor".

John Aylieff, WFP's Representative and Country Director, said: "In spite of decreases in the price of course rice, the high food price crisis is simply not over for millions of Bangladeshis. Malnutrition rates have risen dramatically and are way above internationally-accepted emergency thresholds in many areas. If a broad variety of safety nets are not implemented urgently for those most affected by high food prices, many of the development gains of the last decades are at risk of being lost"

The WFP Representative continued saying: "WFP is striving to support the Government's laudable new vision on reducing hunger and malnutrition in Bangladesh. This new partnership on emergency safety nets provides a first important step in that direction. "

Recently approved by WFP's Executive Director, the Emergency Operation will focus assistance on the most food insecure regions of the nation.

WFP's assistance, provided using both food and cash transfers, will be distributed through projects focused on nutrition and health, education, employment generation and disaster prevention and mitigation at the community level. The programme will be implemented in collaboration with Government entities and with national and international non-governmental organizations working in Bangladesh.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: last year we assisted 88 million people - mostly women and children - in 78 of the world's poorest countries.