The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) hopes to offer school feeding to help the small West African country of Benin recover from severe flooding and poverty. Lack of funding has stopped the program from opening this academic year.
WFP is seeking an almost $2 million grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole program to help finance the school meals. McGovern-Dole, run by the United States Department of Agriculture, issues grants to support school feeding in developing countries. The initiative marks U.S. leadership in fighting global hunger. However, recent budget cuts proposed by the House threaten McGovern-Dole and other Food for Peace measures.
WFP’s school feeding program in Benin was to open in October had funding come through. Previous school feeding efforts had produced very positive results. Hopes for continuing this momentum were dashed.
Massive flooding also struck the country last fall. WFP reported that more than 105,000 people had lost their homes. Schools, hospitals, and infrastructure were severely damaged, with 128,000 hectares of farmland ruined, and 12,000 metric tons of food stocks destroyed. Livelihoods were lost. One flood victim told WFP, “I have six children and I have nothing to give them.”
WFP is helping those affected by flooding in the West African nation of Benin. (WFP/Katie Fackler)
Under these conditions, where families have lost so much, school feeding takes on the very important safety-net role.
WFP is hoping to have a limited distribution of school meals reaching some of the more vulnerable areas. The plan is to start distributions in April to some schools in high poverty areas and those most severely hit by the flooding.
In 2011 WFP aims to reach 103,853 students in 364 schools. The number of beneficiaries will decline in 2012 and 2013 as WFP hands over more schools to the government-run program. WFP’s is meant to be a stopgap measure to help Benin get through a difficult period and build a national school meals program. Local production of the school meals is part of the strategy.
What is needed now, though, is funding to get school meals to the hungry children of Benin.