Oct 25, 2004

Chittagong Hill Tracts: World Food Program to expand development projects in Chittagong Hill Tracts

The UN WFP has planned to extend and expand its activities in CHT to empower the otherwise forgotten hill women, poorest among the tribal population
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World Food Programme (WFP) officials in Dhaka said they had already planned to build and expand its current rehabilitation activities of the second Rural Road Maintenance (RM) Project in the hill districts of Khagrachhari, Rangamati and Bandarban for another three year term.

“The encouraging success of the second three-year programme being implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) prompted planners in WFP and government to mobilise more resources to go for the third three- year programme in the hills,” WFP programme officer of special field operations Sidduqul Islam Khan told BSS.

He said that under the second three-year project 9,100 ultra- poor women participants have received a daily wage along with rice and saving benefits for their services in the road maintenance work in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), identified as a major “food insecure area” in the WFP’s poverty map.

The savings will be released to participants at the end of the current three-year cycle in 2005 for investment in income- generating activities of their choice.

Under the project 11,655 kilometres road will be built and maintained by the participants during the three year period.

The WFP sources said the project “invests in human capital” by providing a comprehensive package of health and family planning, nutrition, basic literacy and numeracy, and income skills training.

They said the provision of food and cash enables women to gain and preserve productive assets, while the education and training empower them to take their own decisions and to better their future.

Apart from the women, the expanded WFP programme is to cover unemployed youths and ex-combatants or former tribal rebels, returnee refugees, internally displaced people and children aged between three and six years.

The estimated total number of beneficiaries is around 80,000, of which over 50 percent are children. The estimated food requirement for the three-year programme is 54,000 tonnes of rice and fortified biscuits.

Seven NGOs, run by local ethnic minority groups, deliver a “culturally appropriate” training package to the beneficiaries using participatory methods under the project while Food Aid Committees chaired by the local elected representative assist them in selecting the beneficiaries.

The project also supports the capacity building of LGED and government counterparts along with monitoring the performance of the local NGOs in the field level.

“We forget difficulties in reaching tha inaccessible areas when we see the programme has brought about positive changes in the life of poor women who were otherwise the forgotten people of the hills,” WFP’s Assistant Field Officer Masing Newar. She monitors the LGED’s job at the remote project areas.

WFP sources said the third three-year operation would focus on food as income-transfer through food for work activities, vocational and life-skills training enable poor households to invest in human capital.

There would be a provision of nutritional support to pre-primary and primary school children to reduce micro-nutrient deficiencies, food relief for extremely vulnerable families that cannot participate in Food For Work or Food For Training and or those who suffer from food shortages during seasonal lean period.

The goal of this operation will be to improve household food security, particularly of those whose traditional livelihoods are being eroded, and to build social cohesion among different ethnic groups in the rugged CHT.

WFP officials hope the programme would offer enormous scopes to other key UN agencies like UNDP and UNICEF to join the initiatives under an integrated programme approach in CHT.

Source: The Bangladesh Journal