Imagine being a farmer in Ethiopia trying to grow enough food to support your family. A massive drought hits, ruining your crops. Livestock in your village lie dead in the fields from disease brought on by the excessive heat. After the drought finally ends, it is soon followed by another. Located in the Horn of Africa, Ethiopia has been hard hit recently by repeated droughts. Many families have lost their livestock and are unable to support themselves. This tragedy has been compounded by the "silent tsunami" of high food prices which struck in 2008.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) recently reported that drought and high food prices have pushed 12 million people into hunger. For struggling families, knowing that their child is ensured a meal at school is an important safety net in times of crisis. As part of a long-term strategy to eliminate the high poverty rate in the country, school feeding is essential. The World Food Programme is working to help make sure every child in Ethiopia can receive a school lunch. Jakob Mikkelsen, a WFP representative in Ethiopia, talks about the importance of school feeding.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
WFP currently supports the Ethiopian Ministry of Health in providing school meals to 414,078 school children in six regions of the country (Afar, Amhara, Oromiya, Southern People’s Region, Somali, and Tigray), encompassing 130 districts and 770 schools. WFP and the Ministry of Education are planning to scale up the program in the Afar region this year.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
The average number of children enrolled in schools with school feeding programs increased by 7% from 2006 to 2007. The average attendance rate of WFP-assisted schools was 91.5% in 2007, which was above WFP’s goal of 90%. The focus on girls' education has led to an increase in enrollment and attendance rates for girls. The ratio of girls to boys enrolled in school increased by 7% from 2006 to 2007. Furthermore, the drop-out rate is lower in schools that have school feeding programs than the average in schools nationwide. The average drop-out rate nationwide is 11.25% for girls and 12.26% for boys, as compared to rates of 9% for girls and 11% for boys in WFP-assisted schools (2005/2006 Ministry of Education annual statistical abstract).
WFP implemented “Essential Package” activities in 2007 at more than 100 schools supported by school feeding. The “essential package” consists of activities such as training on de-worming, school gardens, and health and nutrition education.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?