Any peace plan for the Middle East has to address the hunger and poverty afflicting the Palestinian people, particularly the children. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is attempting to do this through school feeding initiatives in the West Bank and Gaza. School feeding not only fights hunger and malnutrition, but also boosts education.
In Gaza, restriction of access resulting from the long-standing conflict with Israel prevented the WFP school feeding program from starting in September. With the recent escalation of violence, WFP is struggling to provide life-saving assistance to civilians caught in the conflict. When the fighting does end, many aid programs like school feeding will be desperately needed to help Gaza rebuild.
In the West Bank, school feeding is under way with extremely promising results. In the following interview, we will look more closely at this program with Sarah Klonski, the West Bank Coordinator of the World Food Programme.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the West Bank?
A total of 54,858 children — composed of 38,858 school children and 16,000 kindergarten children — are currently benefiting from the WFP School feeding program in the West Bank.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
Although we have not yet proceeded with the nutritional follow-up survey of the School feeding program, the yearly program evaluations have clearly demonstrated diverse positive effects on children, teachers, and local communities.
Attendance and enrolment rates are usually high in the occupied Palestinian territory, due to the mandatory primary education system. However, children have reported an increased motivation to attend school and a better focus on learning. This has also been confirmed through interviews and focus group discussions with parents and teachers.
A positive impact has also been observed regarding social behaviors in class. Students tend to be less aggressive and feel more equal, as they all receive the same breakfast.