WFP extends operations by two years

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will continue its operations in the Republic of Congo for another two years, its country representative, Benedict Akem Fultang, told reporters on Friday.

He said some 18,141 mt of food worth US $13 million would be provided for 177,850 people affected by fighting.

WFP provides food-for-work and income-generating programmes, as well as school feeding programmes that will be implemented in war-affected areas of the country. It will also provide relief food to internally displaced persons who are returning to their communities, to vulnerable groups with high levels of nutritional problems, to people living with HIV/AIDS and to farmers in recently accessible zones. Fultang said this intervention was the result of the requests submitted to the WFP administrative council.

Fultang said it was "well known" that Congo, despite its rich deposits of crude oil, was very poor. In 1990, 30 percent of the urban population lived below the poverty line. This situation had worsened in the last few years, he said.

He said that according to the World Bank, 70 percent of the urban population now lived below the poverty line. The country ranked 104 out of 175 on the UN Development Programme's human development scale in 2003.

An evaluation mission led in September 2003 by the WFP Regional Office for East and Central Africa in the Pool region and another areas of Congo said that armed conflict and economic decline had worsened the nutritional situation of women and children.

The acute malnutrition rate in Pool is among the highest in the country. Rates range from 10 percent to 15 percent of the population, according to the mission evaluation report.

In Pool, WFP will also support the rehabilitation of basic socioeconomic infrastructure and the revival of agriculture. WFP also plans to extend to a pilot school-feeding programme that it started in northern departments of Plateau and Cuvette.