WFP to help rebuild Bangladesh after floods

ROME -- The United Nations World Food Programme announced today it is conducting a $27-million operation to provide emergency relief and rehabilitation assistance to nearly three million victims of last year's massive floods in Bangladesh.
The year-long operation, which ends in May 2000, will focus on rebuilding activities while also providing food relief for the poorest and most vulnerable of those affected by the worst floods Bangladesh has ever experienced.

WFP, the world's largest food aid agency, will provide food to 2.9 million Bangladeshis of whom 631,000 people -- 69 percent of them women - will receive the rations as payment for their efforts to reclaim rural roads, community fish ponds, plantations and flood-protection embankments.

Food-for-work participants will also raise the level of public grounds and houses to limit flood damage in the future for the benefit of approximately 500,000 people, according to Azeb Asrat, WFP programme coordinator for Bangladesh.

Asrat emphasized the country's pressing needs in the wake of the floods because of its endemic poverty and vulnerability to natural disasters.

"We at WFP strongly urge the donor community to help us in our effort to rebuild Bangladesh's infrastructure, which was so heavily damaged by the floods," said Asrat. "The rural poor, especially women, are still suffering serious hardship and we must do all we can to help them rebuild their lives."

The operation, which follows a seven-month emergency relief programme immediately following the floods, will also help 360,000 Bangladeshi women restart the small trade- and agriculture-based enterprises they had previously launched under one of WFP's biggest development programmes in its 36-year history.

Implementation of all rehabilitation efforts in the country will be coordinated by a consortium comprising the Bangladeshi government, bilateral donors, UN agencies, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

WFP will also bolster household food security in Bangladesh by providing food aid to destitute women in severely flood-affected areas as well as food-for-work employment opportunities to people in these areas. Women will be the target group because they are the gateway to the poorest households in Bangladesh.

Last year's floods, which directly affected more than 30 million people, led to WFP's biggest emergency operation in terms of the number of recipients of food aid - 20 million people, or two-thirds of the total number of victims.

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WFP is the United Nations' front-line agency in the fight against global hunger. Last year, its relief workers fed 75 million people, including most of the world's refugees. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, WFP has food aid operations in 80 countries.

Trevor Rowe, Spokesman, WFP Rome, Tel: +39-06-65132602

Abby Spring, Information Officer, WFP/New York Tel. +1-212 963-5196

Christiane Berthiaume, Information Officer, WFP/Geneva, Tel. +41-22 979-9564>

Heather Hill, Information Officer, WFP/Rome, Tel. +003906-6513-2253

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