The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has suffered through decades of instability and conflict. As the DRC moves forward with elections and peace building, it must contend with hunger, poverty, and displacement.
The International Food Policy Research Institute calls the hunger crisis in the DRC "extremely alarming." In fact, their Global Hunger Index (GHI) report recently revealed, "Among the six countries in which the hunger situation worsened, the Democratic Republic of Congo stands out. Its GHI score rose by about 63 percent owing to conflict and political instability."
That same report shows that 70 percent of the population in the DRC is undernourished, the highest rate in the world.
Close to two million people have been displaced due to the conflict. A majority of these are located in the North and South Kivu areas of the DRC.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is coming to the aid of children in the DRC through programs like school feeding. School meals not only fight hunger and malnutrition, but give children a better chance at getting an education. These basic rights we take for granted are constantly in peril for children in the DRC.
Alain Homsy, country director for the NRC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, recently took time to answer some questions about its school feeding mission.
How many children are benefiting from the NRC school meals program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo?
In Grand North Kivu (Beni/Lubero Territories - 2011), in a total of 156 primary schools, 87,848 pupils (43,166 boys / 44,682 girls) have benefited from the school feeding program, along with 1,953 teachers (754 men / 1,199 women) and 970 cooks (833 men / 137 women). In addition, two NRC Youth Education Program centres also benefited from the school feeding program with a total of 192 learners (94 boys / 98 girls);
In South Kivu (Mwenga Territory - 2011), in a total of 52 primary schools, 22,367 pupils (11,220 boys / 11,157 girls) have benefited from school feeding, along with 524 teachers (445 men / 79 women) and 220 cooks (0 men / 220 women). In addition, one NRC Youth Education program centre also benefited from school feeding with a total of 192 learners (74 boys / 91 girls);
Have the meals had an effect on class attendance and performance?
In Grand North Kivu (where sending kids to school is a priority for those who can afford it and satisfactory security conditions prevailed for most of past decade), thanks to school feeding, enrolment and attendance went up by an average of 28 percent in the academic year 2009-10, with a maximum of 63 percent and a minimum of two percent. The regular meal supply therefore appears to have a clear impact on attendance although changing security conditions also affect attendance in a significant way.