The drought emergency that has been declared in Kenya arrives on top of previously existing problems: an AIDS epidemic, urban migration, and a lack of government resources to deal with these challenges. People who were already struggling to feed themselves because of high food prices have now been hit by maize shortages and drought. Nearly 50 percent of the population lives below the poverty line — on less than a dollar a day — and with inadequate access to food. 1.2 million children remain out of school despite the 2003 declaration by the Government of free primary education for all.
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) runs school feeding programs to help impoverished children in Kenya. Rene McGuffin, a WFP program advisor, talks about how critical school feeding is for overcoming hunger and poverty in Kenya.
How many children benefit from the WFP School feeding programs in Kenya?
WFP Kenya is providing food assistance to 770,000 primary schoolchildren in more than 1,700 schools located in the remote, arid regions and the unplanned urban slums of Nairobi and Mombasa. Due to the drought and resulting food crisis, WFP is looking at scaling up the number of children it feeds by April 2009 in an effort to ensure that those children who might otherwise drop out of school to help their families during these difficult times remain in school.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
Although progress has been made, there are significant regional disparities in access to social services and schooling across Kenya. In both the remote, arid districts and the urban slums, more than 67 percent of the population lives below the poverty line, many on less than a dollar a day. Basic social services are grossly inadequate.
Chronic food insecurity and poverty reduces opportunities for children to complete primary education in many parts of Kenya. To support children in school, WFP launched a school feeding program in 1980 with an overall objective of supporting the Government’s goal of ensuring universal primary education and education for all by 2015.
The daily meal, mixed with oil and salt, provides the children with 703.25 calories, including 13.5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat necessary for their growth.
According to a WFP 2008 survey, the net enrollment rate for boys and girls has risen from 77% in 2002 to 92% in 2007, due in part to the Government of Kenya’s Free Primary School initiative, and in part to the provision of school meals. While gender ratios are below parity in all schools, meaning fewer girls are attending school than boys, the ratio is closer to parity in schools with school feeding. This suggests that school meals attract the more underprivileged female students to class. Attendance rates in WFP-assisted schools have increased to 89 percent, demonstrating that school feeding draws hungry children to school each day.