Para Hunzai of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) recently reported on the massive flooding taking place in Cambodia. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes. Livelihoods have been lost as farm lands have been swept away. This crisis is taking a great toll on the many families in the country already living in poverty.
WFP provides assistance in Cambodia, including a school meals program which is a crucial safety net to help the poor overcome shocks like the floods. School feeding keeps children fed, healthy, and learning. Para recently took time to discuss the impact of this program and ways you can get involved to help feed and educate children in Cambodia.
How many children are currently receiving the WFP school meals?
During the coming school year (October 2011 - July 2012) 342,000 primary school children will receive hot nutritious breakfasts consisting of rice, yellow split beans, fish, salt and oil. Over 65,000 of the poorest families also receive a monthly scholarship of either 10 kg of rice per month or the cash equivalent of US$5 as an incentive to send children to school.
In January 2011, Preahreach Akak Mohaesei School suffered a small setback when WFP was no longer able to provide fish as part of the school breakfast as a result of resource constraints. When the School Support Committee learnt of this, they initiated a resource mobilization campaign going village to village urging parents to contribute what they could to help supplement school breakfasts with much needed vitamins and protein for the schoolchildren. (WFP photo)
What has been the impact of the meals in terms of class attendance and performance?
An independent impact evaluation commissioned by WFP in 2010 showed that the impact of the school meals and food scholarship activities is evident on three levels:
Education: The impact of school meals was evident in higher enrolment (an analysis of Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) data shows a 2-2.5 percent increase upon a school’s inclusion in the School Meals Programme, with a bigger increase for girls at 3 percent; furthermore, over the period 2002–2009 the increase in enrolment was 6.1 percent higher for schools that were part of the School Meals Programme); increased attendance (based on the household survey, food scholarship activities contributed to an annual increase of around 3 percent) and reduced drop-out rates (the School Meals Programme reduced drop-outs, especially in grades 2–4 by around 2.7 percent).