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WFP feeds demobilized former fighters in Burundi

BUJUMBURA - Supporting the reintegration of former rebels and troops into civilian life that is vital to Burundi's peace process, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today started providing food to ex-combatants being demobilized at three centres in the war-torn country.

In this new programme, which will expand in coming years to include all 55,000 former combatants identified by the National Programme for Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration, WFP gives food to each participant during a mandatory 10-day preparation for reintegration into civilian life.

"Providing food to ex-combatants in the demobilization centres will enable them to participate actively in the orientation programme before they go back to their communities of origin," said Zlatan Milisic, WFP Country Director in Burundi.

"WFP is happy to contribute in this modest way to the efforts to bring peace and national reconciliation to Burundi," he added.

In collaboration with the Executive Secretariat of the National Commission for Demobilization, Reinsertion and Reintegration, WFP rice, beans, vegetable oil, canned fish and salt will be distributed in the demobilization centres in Muramvya, Randa and Gitega.

"The total demobilization of all former fighters who will not be integrated in the national army and police is a critical step in the peace process and WFP food assistance will continue to be provided until the demobilization phase is completed," Milisic said.

Besides feeding former adult combatants, WFP also provides food for demobilized child soldiers and rebels in collaboration with UNICEF. More than 2,300 child fighters and their host families have already been supported for demobilization and reintegration by WFP.

Overall, WFP regularly assists people who are refugees, displaced, malnourished and otherwise vulnerable in Burundi. The aim of the agency's operations is to fight hunger and food insecurity, promote agricultural and community development activities, encourage basic education and nourish vulnerable people throughout the country.

To date, WFP has provided around 65,000 metric tons of food to more than 1.5 million people in 2004. Recent donors include the United States, European Community, the Netherlands, Canada, Italy, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Norway and Germany.

WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency: in 2003 we gave food aid to a record 104 million people in 81 countries, including 56 million hungry children.

WFP Global School Feeding Campaign For just 19 US cents a day, you can help WFP give children in poor countries a healthy meal at school -- a gift of hope for a brighter future.

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