Mon, Sep 12, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Bangladesh plans to hand out food to its poorest people

AFP , DHAKA

Bangladesh has deployed 15,000 troops to distribute food to 30 million of its poorest people ahead of the annual harvest, the country's food minister said yesterday.

"It's the biggest ever vulnerable group feeding program in Bangladesh's history and we will do it only for the month of September and October when people in the rural areas don't have much work to do," minister Chowdhury Kamal Ibne Youssuf said.

The program will reach 6.5 million families or almost one-fifth of the population of 140 million people, Youssuf said, adding that the government expects food prices to drop by November with the new rice crop.

"The troops have started to move out to the districts and are making preparations for the vulnerable group feeding program," Youssuf said.

Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world with an annual per capita income of US$445, according to the government.

Under the program, ration cards will be given to the poorest 1,500 families in each of the country's 4,484 unions, the smallest administrative unit of the country, Youssuf said.

"The army men will screen out which families are fit for the program, distribute the ration cards to them and ensure efficient distribution of food," army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Nazrul Islam said.

The most vulnerable 1,000 families in each area will be given 10kg of rice free for this month and next month, while the remaining 500 families identified will get 10kg of rice but have to pay three taka (US$0.05) per kilogram, less than the going rate of 18 taka.

"Previously, we undertook vulnerable feeding programs mostly for the northern areas where the opportunity for work is very little. But this year we will cover the whole country," Youssuf said.

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