UN expanding food aid to rebellion torn Philippine areas

This is from AFP.
It will probably take some while before the details of the agreement are actually worked out and meantime displaced persons will certainly find the aid welcome. Even without the conflict many rural areas in the Philippines face difficult times because of rising prices for rice and other goods.

UN expanding food aid to rebellion-torn southern Philippines
22 hours ago
MANILA (AFP) — The United Nations said Friday it will expand its food aid programme in the southern Philippines to a further 500,000 people despite hopes the 40-year-old Muslim insurgency may soon be settled.
The UN World Food Programme, which launched school-based soup kitchens on troubled Mindanao island in 2006, will expand its coverage to 1.5 million people, country chief Stephen Anderson told AFP in an interview.
The agency supplies 12.5-kilogram (27.5-pound) packs of cereals and beans to about 187,000 children in 800 schools every month as an incentive to keep them in school.
The food rations are typically shared by the families of the children who live in, or were displaced from, areas of fighting between Muslim rebels and government forces or between rival Muslim clans.
"We're in the process of finalising our expansion phase, we're not ending for at least another year," Anderson said.
Anderson said the assistance had stabilised school attendance rates in conflict areas of Mindanao, where only 33 percent of children complete primary school compared to 67 percent for the rest of the country.
"The retention rate is extremely important when you're talking about education because once children drop out... it's very difficult to go back," he said.
In a country where a third of the population live on a dollar a day or less, the government says one in six children are not in school due to poverty.
The targeted schools are in areas with the highest child malnutrition rates in the country.
President Gloria Arroyo's government said this week it hopes to proceed to the final stage of peace negotiations shortly with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front after resolving the most contentious issues of the protracted talks that mainly deal with control over the region's natural resources.
The UN official said even if Manila signs a peace treaty with the rebels, "it would still take some time" before these areas can be weaned off food aid.
"Even if you bring in resources, you need to have structures, the institutions in place to handle them and that usually takes a bit of time," he said.


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