updated 5/4/2008 10:30:42 PM ET 2008-05-05T02:30:42

The United States has announced $40 million in food aid for Bangladesh, which is facing shortages after floods and a devastating cyclone last year.

James F. Moriarty, the U.S. ambassador to Dhaka, said Sunday that about $10 million would be used to meet emergency food needs while the rest would be distributed over the next three years, mainly through school feeding programs.

The emergency aid will primarily benefit people who lost their property in last year's Tropical Cyclone Sidr, Moriarty said.

Sidr hit Bangladesh on Nov. 15, killing some 3,400 people and destroying crops across the southern coastal region. Two earlier floods displaced millions and washed away crops in the central and northern regions.

The government is struggling to feed the country's 150 million people, faced with food shortages and rising world food prices.

The South Asian delta nation expects good harvests over the next two months but officials say it still will be short at least 3.3 million tons of food.

Assistance for mothers
A good portion of the new U.S. food aid will be used to feed pregnant and lactating mothers and children, Moriarty said.

Under the school feeding program, some 350,000 children will receive high-energy biscuits, he said. The aid is also expected to reduce school dropouts.

"We are providing a means and an incentive for children to stay in school so Bangladesh can prepare the next generation of leaders," he said.

Moriarty said the U.S. would continue to help Bangladesh, emphasizing "democracy, development and denial of space to terrorists."

Bangladesh is currently run by a military-backed interim government that has promised to hold elections by the end of this year.

The government came to power in January last year by declaring a state of emergency after weeks of violent street protests over electoral reforms.

In recent years, the Muslim-majority country has been hit by terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals who want to establish strict religious laws.

The government says it has broken up the terrorism network and is now working to prevent its resurgence.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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