The UN World Food Programme (WFP), in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Local Government, is running 39 projects in the country for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, WFP officials told IRIN on Thursday.
WFP provides food for people affected by HIV/AIDS who are undergoing vocational and basic life skills training in centres across the country. The projects also provide training in management of income-generating activities as well as peer support and counselling programmes.
Government officials and the WFP regional director, Holdbrook Arthur, who is currently on a visit to Rwanda, toured on Thursday one such project in Masaka, 20 km east of the capital, Kigali.
The Masaka project has 56 people running a hardware shop and making soap from avocado and palm oil. Proceeds from the business are deposited at a local health centre that provides free medical care to the 56 and members of their families.
Country Representative David Stevenson said WFP's food aid was to strengthen the people's coping mechanism and to promote family and community care of people affected by HIV/AIDS.
"Food assistance is essential in the fight against HIV/AIDS," Stevenson said. "Ensuring that sufferers who live in hunger-afflicted areas receive food assistance is one of WFP's main priorities."
He added that food aid could prolong the life of people living with AIDS and hence allow them to continue earning an income and feeding their families.
Arthur's visit to Masaka was part of a series of field visits to assess the food security situation and WFP activities in the country.
"By providing food-for-assets and food-for-training, which helps people acquire new skills and earn a better living, WFP can make a difference," Stevenson said. "This is how WFP can help people achieve self-reliance."