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School Feeding in Tajikistan at a Crossroads

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On any given day, you will see news headlines about Afghanistan. That’s certainly not surprising, given the U.S. involvement there.  How often do you hear news about Afghanistan’s neighbor to the north, Tajikistan?

This country has faced its own challenges since gaining independence from the Soviet Union. There was a civil war in the 1990s, and a difficult reconstruction period over the last decade. More recently, high food prices and unemployment have placed a heavy burden on the population.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides assistance to Tajikistan. WFP studies show that “nearly two-thirds of the country’s population are classified as poor, living on less than US $2.15 / day, with some 76 percent of them living in rural areas.”

In 2009 I interviewed AnneMarie van den Berg about providing school meals in Tajikistan. The meals make a big difference in terms of child nutrition, class attendance and performance. WFP wants to build upon that success with a new five-year school feeding project which has just kicked off.

 

 

The children’s soup is accompanied by bread made from WFP fortified wheat flour. The children have the meal after the second class of the day. (Heather Hill/WFP)

The project supports 370,000 primary school children, as well as teachers, in some of the rural parts of the country. It will consist of hot soup and bread. It’s all part of a strategy to build a national school lunch program run by the government. The key is to provide meals to students while local capacity is built up to take over the programs.

To fund the five-year project, WFP needs $46.7 million. At this point only a $3.2 million donation from Russia has come through.

Alzira Ferreira, WFP Tajikistan director, says, “the funding situation is worrying and unless new donors confirm…we will be facing tough decisions and potential reductions in coverage from January 2011.”

Tajikistan is now facing a critical chapter in its plans for child nutrition and education. If it gets the support necessary to turn the corner, a national school lunch program lies ahead. The alternative is the loss of a safety net for impoverished families, and nutrition and education for children will suffer.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.