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  • Title: [SW News (All Africa News Agency) WFP Seeks To Target Women In Humanitarian Mission
  • From:[]
  • Date :[Wednesday, March 22, 2000 8:49 PM EST ]



WFP Seeks To Target Women In Humanitarian Mission

Story Filed: Wednesday, March 22, 2000 8:49 PM EST

Rome (All Africa News Agency, March 22, 2000) - Three-quarters of the people around the world who need food aid because of war, natural disaster or extreme poverty are women and children.

The ratio, according to the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, Catherine Bertini, is "an unacceptable reality that we need to address more effectively"

Bertini, speaking on the eve of the UN's International Women's Day (March 8), represents the world's largest food aid agency. Last year, WFP helped feed 88 million people, a large majority of whom were women and children.

Women and children account for eight out of ten victims of political violence and three out of four victims of humanitarian emergencies It is time to break this insidious cycle.

"In any humanitarian crisis, women and children always constitute the majority of those threatened by hunger and starvation," Bertini said.

"Women and children account for eight out of ten victims of political violence and three out of four victims of humanitarian emergencies It is time to break this insidious cycle," Bertini continued.

"UN agencies and the entire international community must develop strategies that will empower women in both crisis situations and in situations where the cycle of generations of poverty and hunger traps women and their families in destitution".

Bertini cited, as an example of measures that can empower women, the concrete goals that WFP has set for itself in the context of delivering food aid.

One such objective is to distribute 80 percent of its food relief to women and 50 percent of its food for educational programmes in a country to girls.

These goals, which are part of WFP's Commitments to Women, were formulated at the UN Fourth Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 and have a fulfilment date of 2001.

In Kenya, WFP has been assisting primary and pre-primary schools in the food insecure regions of the country since 1980.

WFP provides a hot, nutritious lunch, every day to 357,000 primary and pre-primary school children in the arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya and in the Nairobi slum schools in Kariobangi and Mukuru .

With the launch of the WFP emergency drought appeal in February this year, the number of children receiving food at school from WFP will increase to over one million.

In Somalia, WFP focuses its attention on getting the women heard. "Women are the backbone of the economy. They are the ones that collect the firewood, sell it in the market and care for the entire family. Yet they have no power to make decisions," says Kisanet Tezare, Gender Focal Point for WFP Somalia.

Today, after lengthy discussions with elders and community leaders, women are able to play a large role in identifying the more vulnerable communities. They participate in relief committees to ensure the vulnerable women get the food they deserve.

WFP has trained several groups of women throughout the year on the rights they have as the most vulnerable of Somali society. They know the food is meant for them and through them the family is well supported.

"All of us in the international community must focus greater attention on women in relief efforts," Bertini said. "By giving women more control over food and other aid, as well as greater means to become self-sufficient, we are taking the most efficient route to helping families cope in any crisis".

Because 80 percent of WFP's operations are emergencies, the plan for each new crisis takes into account the needs and priorities of the women victims.

Wherever possible, food aid is put directly into the hands of a woman, because she will ensure that what food she gets will be consumed in her household rather than sold or traded.

Women, who are the majority of farmers and food-gatherers in many developing countries, are also recognised as having a crucial role to play in the recovery phase of an emergency.

"When violence strikes, women and their children are the first to suffer," Bertini said. "For both moral reasons, and for practical, problem-solving reasons, women must be first in line for humanitarian aid".



Copyright 2000 All Africa News Agency. Distributed via Africa News

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