European Commission (EC) has announced a grant of over Tk 1.59 billion (20.5 million euro) for the newly launched Vulnerable Group Development for Ultra-Poor (VGDUP) programme 2007-2011.
The VGDUP programme will be implemented in Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts, under the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs. The programme will be executed by World Food Programme (WFP).
The project received technical and administrative approval at a meeting on December 18 last.
High officials from Bangladesh Bank, National Board of Revenue (NBR), Economic Relations Division (ERD) and Ministry of Women and Children Affairs attended the meeting.
The meeting was held with a view to providing framework for EC assistance in Bangladesh by submitting the Bangladesh country strategy paper 2002-2006.
EC provides support to increase the government's effort to reduce poverty and enhance the country's integration into the world economy, sources said.
"EC has sanctioned the grant having been convinced at the performance of the current Food Security for VGD (FSVGD) programme that was implemented by the concerned ministry", a high official said preferring anonymity.
FSVGD project had already completed its two cycles in December 2004 and the third cycle began in January 2005, expected to be completed by December 2006.
The total budget for 2001 - 2006 is around Tk 68,36,66,371.5 (euro 87, 98,795) and the budget for the January 2005-December 2006, the current cycle, is Tk 22,04,66,135.4 (euro28,37,402).
A total of 1,09,379 ultra poor women will be directly assisted in the current two-year programme cycle, while some 5,46,895 dependants will be indirectly benefited from the project.
He said the EC has sanctioned grant of Tk 4817.4 million (52-62 million euro) in the prevailing FSVGD project for this year.
Of the amount, Tk 1942.75 million (euro 25 million) is being provided for food security and rural development, while Tk 2331 million (20-30 million euro) for economic development, Tk 1320.9 million (17 million euro) for human rights and Tk 1165.5 million (15 million euro) for the socio-economic development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
Department of Women Affairs is supervising and monitoring the FSVGD project, a part of nationwide VGD programme, through the project implementation unit (PIU) and the project director.
Project Director of the FSVGD programme AKM Mortuza said the Ministry of Women and Children Affairs has sent Tk 1,09,000 in the bank accounts of some 309 VGD participants in seven districts of the north part of the country.
Under this five-year country programme, a total of 280,000 VGD respondents will receive Tk 150 and 15 kg fortified flour per head, Advocacy Head of WFP Enamul Haque said.
Besides food and cash rations, training in marketable income-earning skills, nutrition and other relevant life-improvement topics will be imparted under this project, he added.
The EC disbursed the cash allocation through concerned ministry and department of women affairs while the WFP coordinated the allocation of food aid of this project, he further said.
The main objective of the FSVGD programme is to provide food security for VGD women and their children through monthly food aid, weekly support meetings and interactive nutrition education.
The participants are selected in the project on the basis of criteria like leading the household, having extremely low and irregular income and landlessness.
The FSVGD project is carried out in 57 upazilas of seven districts -- Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, Panchagarh, Lalmonirhat, Rajshahi, Kurigram and Naogaon.
Department of Women Affairs with the assistance of 13 non-government organisations (NGOs) is imparting capacity-building training on income generating activities for the participants.
Besides, the WFP will spend US$ 105 million to assist two million VGD participants of whom 75 per cent are women.