WFP this week launched an aid operation to support a critical peace initiative in war-ravaged Mindanao in southern Philippines.
The US$27 million (1.35 billion pesos) operation will help more
The Government and people of the Philippines cannot take on this challenge alone
WFP’s Regional Director for Asia, Anthony Banbury
than two million people living in five of the region’s poorest provinces.
The UN’s Resident Coordinator for the Philippines, Nileema Noble, described the WFP aid as “a tangible peace dividend” for the most vulnerable. “Sixty percent of the population of the targeted provinces will benefit directly,” she said.
More than 170,000 school children are to receive take-home rations of rice, helping to reduce the region’s high dropout rates.
Schools will also serve daily a mid-morning snack made from vitamin and mineral-enriched corn-soya blend, vegetable oil and sugar.
Tackling hunger to help peace
In addition, the WFP operation will feed 18,000 children in day care centres, provide nutritious take-home rations to 85,000 mothers and young children attending rural health clinics, and support 150,000 individuals and their families through food-for-work and food-for-training schemes designed to enhance communities’ long-term food security.
WFP has been forming partnerships with local governments, non-governmental organisations, UN agencies and communities to implement the programme on the ground.
WFP’s officer-in-charge, Wurie Alghassim, declared: “The commitment of all stakeholders is vital if we are to meaningfully address the problems of hunger and poverty and help create an environment conducive to peace.”
Pledges amounting to US$4.1 million – 15 per cent of the funding required – have been made by the governments of Australia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Sweden, as well as by corporations including Citigroup and TNT, the global logistics company.
WFP’s Regional Director for Asia, Anthony Banbury, noted the critical importance of contributions by the international community to assist in securing the peace process in Mindanao: “The Government and people of the Philippines cannot take on this challenge alone – the contributions of those nations that are willing to support this process of peace and reconciliation must also be recognised.”
WFP has begun providing a week’s worth of emergency food to over 3,100 families displaced by fighting between elements of the Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
At this week’s launching ceremony in Cotabato, Maguindanao Province, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo presented sacks of rice to representatives of the five provinces WFP will work in.
Also present were Secretary Esperanza Cabral of the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and Secretary Jesus Dureza of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
The active involvement of many national and international agencies will be required to ensure the food assistance reaches its intended beneficiaries.
WFP’s partners include DSWD, Community and Family Services International, Cotabato Local Government Unit, Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), Philippine Business for Social Progress, and fellow UN agencies.
UNICEF will supply de-worming tablets for all 225,000 children receiving WFP food and iron tablets for an estimated 24,000 pregnant women attending WFP-supported rural health clinics.
In 1996 WFP ended 30 years of assistance to the Philippines, and returned to the country this year at the request of the government and members of the international donor community keen to support the peace process in Mindanao.