In this next interview in the “Ending World Hunger“ series, we will look at school feeding programs in Bhutan. Located between India and China, Bhutan is often victimized by natural disasters like flooding. The rainy season can even close road access to remote communities for up to six months.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Bhutan eliminate hunger and poverty. According to WFP, “close to one-third of the population suffers from food insecurity.” School feeding programs are vital to changing this situation. The following is an interview with Leo van der Velden, the country director of the World Food Programme in Bhutan.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
The World Food Programme (WFP) assists the Royal Government of Bhutan in its school feeding activities by providing two meals per day to 41,000 children studying in rural, remote boarding and selected day schools. Bhutan, roughly the size of Switzerland, is a rugged, mountainous kingdom with a population of some 670,000 scattered in the “Land of the Thunder Dragon.” The schools are mostly located in areas where drivable roads are absent. Children attending day schools walk 2-3 hours a day to get to school. Schools with low girls enrollment are also targeted with school meals.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance and nutrition?
Education in Bhutan is a success story. The net primary enrollment rate grew in ten years from some 53% in 1998 to 84% last year. WFP is proud to be part of this achievement. The attendance rate has been stable for a number of years – more than 95% for both boys and girls. During monitoring trips, WFP has observed that students come as early as 7 AM to school with their plates and cups for the WFP provided breakfast. They are also seen washing their hands, plates and cups diligently and getting ready for breakfast. However, challenges are still outstanding, as there are districts and groups of people well below the national enrollment levels. Further assistance can still make a difference, especially in regard to the Millennium Development Goal of “Education for All” in 2015.
School feeding has also strengthened performance. Children are more active in the classroom and tend to refrain from falling asleep. The children also take active participation in extra curricular activities, especially sports. Another positive indicator is that children are less likely to get sick after school feeding is incorporated.