Puntland and Somaliland may not be household names when it comes to world geography. These are two regions in the conflict-torn and impoverished nation of Somalia.
They are also two areas where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) wants to help children by providing them school meals. In a nation of high food insecurity, these school meals are a precious treasure.
As you read this, WFP is feeding 41,600 children in Somaliland and 16,300 in Puntland. Combined, over 200 schools take part. WFP wants to reach more children in these two regions, as well as expand into Central Somalia and feed 2,500 primary school students.
WFP in 2011 aims to feed 1.2 million people in Somalia (WFP/Peter Smerdon)
Funding, though, is a huge obstacle. WFP says it “is facing a 55 percent shortfall (US $43 million) for our emergency operations, including emergency school meals, in Somalia from April through September.”
School feeding for children will take on even more importance with ongoing drought conditions. WFP director Josette Sheeran was recently in Central Somalia and said, “I’ve seen today that this drought is deepening and I’m especially alarmed by its impact on the most vulnerable including children and the elderly.”
Schools in these areas also lack infrastructure, and WFP Food for Work projects are needed to fill these gaps.
While getting school feeding for all children in Somalia is one goal, there is another key objective: producing the food locally. Yes, food for school lunches can be imported, but it’s cheaper, and better for Somali farmers, if they can produce the food for the children. WFP has set their sights on local food production.
Peter Smerdon of WFP says a joint crop surplus assessment mission has been carried out with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to identify crop surplus zones in Somaliland. He adds, “WFP will continue to explore the possibility of buying food locally in Somalia in 2011 if overall food production allows this.”
When Somali children receive school meals, it makes a difference. A survey conducted by WFP revealed “that 98% of teachers believe that children´s attentiveness in class increased due to the school feeding program. 75% believe that violence by children has decreased.”
Need more be said about the treasure school meals are for Somalia, and why every child there should receive them?