This is a summary of what was said by United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) spokesperson Tomson Phiri – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today’s press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.

GENEVA – The U.N. World Food Programme is working tirelessly to assist people in need following the devastating fire outbreak that tore through four settlements in the Kutupalong Mega Camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh.

The U.N. World Food Programme immediately provided emergency rations of high-energy biscuits to evacuated families sheltering with friends and families in nearby camps and transit centers and will today – 23 March – provide 60,000 hot meals to affected families.

Last night, U.N. World Food Programme’s Engineering experts were deployed to help contain the fire while food assistance teams provided rapid assistance to affected families. The U.N. World Food Programme also deployed light and heavy machinery, including water tanks, to support the response.

Although the full extent of the damage will become clearer once assessments have been finalized, our frontline staff in the camps reported horrific scenes of devastation, destruction and despair. One of them said imagine losing everything when you were forced from your home just three years ago, only to lose it all over again, and the pain of watching helplessly as your prized – and only – possessions go up in flames.

Two U.N. World Food Programme nutrition centers and one General Food Distribution point were burnt to the ground. The U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to close two other nutrition sites and an electronic-voucher outlet until damage is assessed.

It is not immediately clear exactly how the fire started but what is clear is that the refugees will need substantial support to get them back on their feet again.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

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WASHINGTON – As classrooms around the developing world begin to re-open, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is receiving $119 million from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide school meals in five countries in Asia and Africa.

“Yet again, the USDA demonstrates real leadership in reaching school-age children in the developing world with proper nutrition. In many countries, school meals are the only food some children receive each day, so we are enormously grateful for USDA’s support,” says Jon Brause, the director of WFP’s Washington office.

The United States provides school meals funding through a competitive award process managed annually by USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program.

The latest awards, which take effect this month, see WFP’s programs in Cote d’Ivoire, Laos, Nepal and Rwanda receiving $25 million each, while WFP’s program in Bangladesh will receive $19 million.

The awards, in cash and in kind, enable WFP to feed about 841,000 children under agreements of three to five years. This amounts to an important bridge for these five governments, giving them temporary support until they can establish their own sustainable, national school feeding programs.

The McGovern-Dole program has provided meals to classrooms in the developing world since 2003, contributing significantly to students’ learning, health and nutrition. It has long been one of WFP’s largest funding sources for school feeding activities, including take-home rations when schools have closed due to Covid-19. Nearly 370 million children missed out on school meals so far this year, including 13 million receiving WFP ones.

“This support is yet another testament to the strength of WFP’s school feeding activities worldwide – and it comes at a critical time,” says Carmen Burbano, WFP’s Rome-based director of School Feeding.

WFP’s school feeding programs span 61 countries and are a key social safety net for poor and vulnerable households. In 2019, WFP provided school meals to 17.3 million schoolchildren, and helped governments reach an additional 39 million children.

Photos available here

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.  We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change. | Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA and @wfp_media

For more information please contact (email address:

  • Steve Taravella, WFP/ Washington, Mobile +1 202 770 5993
  • Shaza Moghraby, WFP/New York, Mobile + 1 929 289 9867

World Food Program USA Announces Fall 2020 Grantees of the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund 
WASHINGTON, DC (October 16, 2020) – World Food Program USA names two new grantees of the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, which aims to end inequality that drives hunger by empowering women and girls with the knowledge, training and leaderships skills they need for personal and economic success. Her Future Coalition and Speak Up for the Poor will receive grants to expand their programs and make an even greater impact on the lives of the women and girls they serve. Women and girls make up the majority of the world’s hungry people, largely because they have unequal access to education and resources. The socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 are pushing millions more into food insecurity.

Her Future Coalition 

Located in India, Her Future Coalition aims to provide positive change in the lives of girls who have survived, or are at high risk of, gender-based violence. It provides education, training, safe shelter and a supportive community in efforts to break the cycle of poverty by enabling girls to reach a self-sufficient future.

When it began in 2005, Her Future Coalition focused solely on supporting survivors of human trafficking. It has since broadened its scope of work to include girls suffering from all types of gender-based violence. The nonprofit serves girls through shelters in vulnerable areas of Mumbai and Kolkata, and recently launched three Red Light Resource Centers that provide childcare to mothers who work in parts of the city known as red-light areas.

With the grant from the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund, Her Future Coalition will launch a new project in Kolkata aimed at reaching girls in the city’s red-light areas and beyond. The project will offer the girls computer training, intensive English instruction, and entrepreneurship and business skills training.

“This grant could not have come at a better time,” says Sarah Symons, Her Future Coalition founder and executive director. “It will allow us to provide computer training to hundreds of girls in red-light areas, slums and rescue shelters of Kolkata, and it is more critical than ever for these girls to be able to continue their education and build a future. The project will enable survivors and girls at high risk for gender violence to permanently break the cycle of poverty and exploitation.”

Speak Up for the Poor  

Speak Up for the Poor (Speak Up) is a nonprofit in Bangladesh that aims to create a new reality for girls in poverty by transforming them into empowered community leaders.

As part of its mission, Speak Up launched its Girls Education Program (GEP) in 2012 to help keep girls in school and break the cycle of poverty. It now provides 1,405 girls in 30 villages across Khulna Division, Bangladesh, with life-changing education.

Keeping girls in school is critical everywhere, but it is especially critical in Bangladesh where nearly 60 percent of girls are forced into illegal child marriages. When girls marry young and have children, they are less likely to stay in school.

Thanks to the grant from the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund, Speak Up will launch The Parent Meetings, a project designed to educate the parents of girls on the value of keeping girls in school and out of child marriages. Through the project, Speak Up will hold monthly community meetings in the local villages where GEP operates. The grant will also enable Speak Up to expand its GEP program.

“Speak Up for the Poor is honored and grateful to receive a grant from the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education,” said Troy Anderson, Speak Up founder and international director. “With this funding, we will continue to educate hundreds of parents in rural Bangladesh on the importance of keeping their daughters in school. Educating and empowering girls in poverty is the best investment we can make in our global future – and Speak Up is thrilled to have the support of the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund as we continue this important work.”

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About World Food Program USA 
World Food Program USA (WFP USA) is the recognized leader in America’s pursuit to end global hunger, inspiring citizens to do everything in their power to create a zero-hunger world. We work with U.S. policymakers, corporations, foundations and individuals to generate financial and in-kind resources for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to feed families in need around the world and to develop policies necessary to alleviate global hunger. To learn more about our mission, please visit us at

About the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education   
After winning the World Food Prize in 2003, Catherine Bertini, the former executive director for the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), recognized an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy for women’s empowerment. Bertini used her winnings to establish the Catherine Bertini Trust Fund for Girls’ Education, a fund that supports innovative grassroots initiatives around the globe that boost access to training and educational opportunities for girls.

Media Contact: 
Toula Athas, Director, Communications, World Food Program USA, 202.627.3940

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