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Ivory Coast Cease-Fire Spells Hope for World Food Program Operations - 2002-10-23


The U.N. World Food Program says it will take advantage of the cease-fire in Ivory Coast to increase aid delivery. The WFP said it is also making plans to help tens of thousands of foreign migrant workers who may flee back to their home countries.

WFP Spokeswoman, Christiane Berthiaume says the agency will use the truce, agreed to last week, to restart a feeding program for schoolchildren that was stopped when the fighting began. "Because of lack of food, a lot of parents did not and are not sending their kids to school. So, before the event, before the 19th of September, we were feeding a quarter of a million kids in school. Now, we are going to try with the help of the Ministry of Education to start again. Not a quarter of a million. We will go slowly. We will start with 90,000 kids and see how it works," Ms. Berthiaume said.

The World Food Program halted its development assistance in Ivory Coast when fighting between rebels and government forces erupted more than a month ago. It switched to an emergency operation and since then has been feeding about 10,000 internally displaced people and migrant workers.

Ms. Berthiaume says the World Food Program fears the unrest in Ivory Coast could push all its foreign workers back to their own countries. As a consequence, she says the agency is making contingency plans in the surrounding countries to feed the millions who may flee.

The United Nations estimates that four million migrants from countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mauritania, and Mali are working in Ivory Coast. WFP's Christiane Berthiaume says if all those people return home, it will pose a huge problem for their impoverished homelands. "We are working with the governments of Burkina Faso, Mali and also Ghana to put in place with them some emergency program to help those people. And, we have brought some food inside Burkina Faso in case there are people. Some have already gone back and they are in a transit center and we are helping them. But, the movement could be more important if the truce does not last," Ms. Berthiaume said.

Ms. Berthiaume says the WFP has airlifted four tons of high-energy biscuits to Ivory Coast from its stock in neighboring Guinea. She says these biscuits will help the displaced population, especially children and pregnant and nursing mothers from becoming malnourished.

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