Kigali — The United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP) country office, yesterday launched the next expansion phase for its 'Food for Anti- Retroviral Therapy (ART)' project.
The expansion will see 10,000 people living with HIV added on the list of the project's beneficiaries, which will increase the number of project sites from 61 to 138 across 18 districts country-wide.
The newly appointed WFP Country Director and Representative, Abdoulaye Balde, said HIV is a global challenge that needs to be addressed by each individual, and support from the whole community is required to help people living with HIV.
"Everything has been put in place to take care of their needs," he said, adding that WFP is not only providing nutritional support, but also helping them to access medical care, in collaboration with different partners.
The food assistance is meant to improve the nutrition status of the beneficiaries and improve their capacity to adhere to ART.
The programme will provide dietary support during the first six months of treatment for people living with HIV, and will continue to expand depending on the food support gaps identified by health facilities.
"We know the gaps in food support for these people because we are close to them," said the representative of the International Center for AIDS Care Treatment Programmes (ICAP), one of the WFP partners. He also mentioned the need for the partners to be committed to strengthening the support to the beneficiaries.
"This is a piece of fish. We hope to teach them how to fish for themselves," he went on.
The function that took place at Jali health center in Gasabo district, also saw ICAP sign an agreement of partnership with WFP.
The agreement details the roles and responsibilities to be undertaken and in which health centres, and the role of the community in the process of helping people living with HIV.
WFP received a donation of more than $715 000 to start expanding the food project from USAID through the Presidential Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).
According to Ryan Washburn, Supervisory General Development Officer in USAID/Rwanda, the US Government has, since 2004, provided $394 million to combat HIV/AIDS in Rwanda.
Other WFP partners in this project include Elizabeth Glazer Paediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF), Partners in Health and Family Health International (FHI).