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WFP article: School feeding
<font size="2">http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/459/550253 <br/>
Supporting children to eat, go to school <br/>
Wednesday, 21st February, 2007 <br/>
Valgerður Sverrisdóttir <br/>
By Valgerður Sverrisdóttir <br/>
If you are seven years old, routine is very important. Things like regular meals, going to school, meeting your friends and bedtime are an essential pattern of daily life. There are special days and special treats, but in the end, it’s the dependability of the daily routine that keeps you feeling secure and happy. <br/>
It doesn’t sound like too much to ask for. Yet for some 400 million children around the world, it is something beyond their wildest dreams. These are the children who start each day feeling hungry and generally go to bed hungry at the day’s end. They may or may not get something to eat in between. Almost certainly, they will have spent a large part of the day working, maybe tending animals, fetching water or carrying out household chores. For over 100 million of them, school plays no part in their lives. And as a result, they will grow up to be as poor as their parents and their children will probably have no more hopes than they do. <br/>
But it doesn’t have to be like that. For one thing, there is more than enough food already produced in the world to feed everyone. Technological advances have made it possible to increase yields and develop strains of crops suited to the harshest conditions. We just need the courage and determination to provide people with the means to help themselves. <br/>
But in the meantime, we have to make do with food aid. In many parts of the developing world this is still the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Malnutrition starts in the womb; underweight mothers give birth to underweight babies. Malnutrition slows down and limits physical and mental development. And hungry children – even if they get to school – find it hard to concentrate and learn. <br/>
School feeding programmes, such as those run by the UN World Food Programme, have already made a huge difference to millions of children. The benefits are multifold. First, school feeding ensures that children get at least one nutritious meal a day and sometimes a ration to take home to their families as well. Second, a full stomach improves children’s ability to learn. And third, school feeding gives parents the incentive to send their children to school in the first place – and access to the education they need to make their lives better in the future. <br/>
WFP has provided school meals in Uganda since the 1980s. In 2007, WFP aims to help 776,000 children in 1,360 schools in districts affected by conflict, extreme poverty and chronic drought. <br/>
School feeding is particularly big in the drought-prone northeastern Karamoja region, where only one percent primary school children could read, write and count well in English in 2004. Rather than taking their children to school, many parents in the region prefer that children stay home to help out with chores, looking for food and income and rearing cattle. WFP supports children, as well as cooks and teachers, in all 230 primary schools in Karamoja. WFP also supports some secondary schools and primary teachers’ colleges. <br/>
The Karamojong more often keep girls than boys away from school. In addition to school feeding, WFP provides a take-home ration for girls from Primary Four to Primary Seven who attend at least 80 percent of their school days each term. Between Primary Four and Primary Seven is the time that girls most often drop out of school. In 2005, for every 100 primary school boys in this group between Primary Four and Primary Seven there were 68 girls. But there are signs the take-home ration is making a difference. In 2006, for the same 100 boys, there were 79 girls in school. <br/>
In Iceland, as in virtually every other developed country, every child goes to school. There are 45,000 primary school children currently in the country. And the Government has now decided to donate the equivalent of each Icelandic child providing a daily meal to a child in a WFP school feeding programme. So 45,000 children in one of the poorest parts of the world will at least be assured nourishment and a basic education. <br/>
This donation, of US$3.2 million for 2007 and 2008, will bring Iceland’s overall contribution to WFP to some US$2 million a year and put Iceland into the agency’s top five per capita donors. <br/>
With so many poor and hungry children in the world, this may seem like a drop in the ocean. But if other developed countries, where all children enjoy the right to go to school, came up with similar initiatives, we would soon have enough to make a real difference for those that do not. <br/>
The writer is the Foreign Affairs Minister for Iceland. She co-authored the article with the World Food Programme’s Executive Director, James Morris <br/>
Stephanie Spiers <br/>
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