The Djiboutian ministry for the promotion of women is conducting training programmes on HIV/AIDS for female peer-educators, saying it is mainly targeting young women who are most vulnerable to infection. Amina Abdi, the ministry's HIV programme manager, told IRIN on Monday, at the end of a three-day seminar to train 20 educators, that her ministry's HIV/AIDS programme would support behavioural change among young Djiboutian women.

Djibouti has made significant progress in reducing maternal mortality over the past 10 years, but the number of women who die in childbirth is still high, the Djiboutian national coordinator for reproductive health, Safia Elmi, said. "In 1994, Djibouti's maternal mortality rate was 740 for 100,000 live births. That is a lot. By 2002, it had fallen to 690 deaths per 100,000 live births," Elmi told IRIN.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced this week that Djibouti could increase its food production by up to 50% over 5 years if the farmers planted faster growing crops more adaptable to short rains. At present the country has to import about 80% of its food requirements, including all its rice, wheat, flour and sugar.

Some 40 HIV-positive people on Tuesday began to receive free anti-retrovirals (ARVs) after Health Minister Muhammad Ali Kamil launched Djibouti's first distribution of ARV medication at Peltier Hospital, the country's main medical centre. Medical staff at the hospital told IRIN that the treatment was started through a donor-funded programme called Global Care for People Living with AIDS (Prise en charge globale des personnes vivant avec le SIDA).

Harking back to traditional caravans as carriers of news as well as goods, professional singers, musicians and actors travelled for three weeks through Djibouti's five districts to spread the word about Millennium Development Goals, and the important role women can play in achieving them. Organized by UNDP and other agencies in the UN country team, the Caravan on Human Development included 40 people, UNDP vehicles, two buses and a truck with camping gear.