LAO GOVERNMENT GIVES WFP TOP AWARD FOR GROUND-BREAKING WORK
BANGKOK - The Government of Laos has given the United Nations World Food Programme's outgoing Representative in the Southeast Asian country its highest possible award for a foreigner in recognition of his efforts through the agency to assist the hungry poor in Laos over the past five years, WFP officials said here today.
The "Friendship Cross," a medal created by the Lao Government in 1975, was given to Malcolm Duthie, an Australian, on his departure as the first WFP Representative in Laos to honour WFP's contribution to the country's social development. The WFP Country Office opened in the capital Vientiane in January 2000.
At a recent ceremony in Vientiane to hand over the award, Government of Laos officials praised the "extremely energetic and effective contribution" Duthie made as the WFP Representative in Laos, underlining that between 2000 and 2005 the UN food aid agency had invested some US$50 million in emergency and development activities and assisted nearly 500,000 vulnerable people.
In its first five years in Laos, WFP
· launched a school feeding programme that now reaches 170,000 children in the most remote parts of the country with the highest rates of both illiteracy and malnutrition;
· started nation-wide food-for-work projects that resulted in the development of a wide range of village assets including hundreds of kilometers of rural roads giving the farming community access to markets and towns;
· responded to the region's chronic floods and droughts with emergency operations to get relief food fast to the victims;
· undertook detailed and comprehensive studies of poverty and household food security in rural Laos, a significant portion of which was incorporated into the government's policy on poverty eradication;
· set up a "food aid framework" that incorporated all food aid (including WFP's commodities) into an overall strategic plan for the government to eradicate poverty and improve the lives of the most vulnerable.
Duthie, accepting the award at the ceremony, said he did so on behalf of WFP, whose assistance kept hundreds of thousands of people from falling into the precipice of absolute poverty and hunger.
"We are also especially proud of the boost that we have been able to give to hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren in Laos," said Duthie. "Children in some of the poorest areas are going to school for the first time in the history of their communities. Girls' enrolment has risen significantly because of the food we give them to take home to their families. And in general, the children are getting better nutrition than they have been in the past."
The Friendship Cross has previously been given to members of UN agencies working in Laos who have made a significant contribution to the country's social development.
WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency; each year, WFP provides food aid to an average of 90 million people, including 56 million hungry children, in more than 80 countries.
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