In the African nation of Chad the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides aid to 150,000 people who have been displaced by fighting in the eastern part of the country. Chad is also host to refugees from the conflicts in Darfur and the Central African Republic. The effects of these internal and external conflicts alone are monumental, but Chad also struggles with natural disasters like drought.
Programs like school feeding are essential for this impoverished nation. Future peace and development in Chad depend on such vital food assistance. In this interview with Gon Myers of the World Food Programme in Chad, we will examine school feeding in Chad.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
During the 2007-2008 school year, the WFP School Feeding Program provided daily hot meals to 120,677 primary school children in more than 650 schools in the Sahelian regions of Kanem, Guera, Batha, Biltine, Ouaddai, and Guera. These regions are the most food insecure in Chad, with a chronic malnutrition rate above 45 percent.
In 2007, the Country Program made allocations for about 95,000 primary school children for the 2007-2008 school year. The government requested that the school feeding program be extended to an additional 25,677 primary school children. The number of feeding days in the program was reduced from 160 days to 120 days in order to accommodate the government’s request and reach 120,677 children.
In the east of Chad, WFP is implementing an emergency school feeding program for some 30,000 internally displaced children who have been driven away from school as a result of inter-ethnic conflicts.
To promote education among girls, take-home family rations are provided to girls enrolled in school who maintain high attendance. The dry ration serves as incentive to encourage parents to keep their daughters in school.
The Maternal Child Health (MCH) component of the Country Program screens pupils for parasites in all targeted schools. In collaboration with UNICEF the pupils benefit from de-worming programs, HIV/AIDS prevention, and awareness education.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
WFP meals provided at school help increase enrollment and attendance rates and reduce the gender gap in schools. Take-home rations provided to girls motivate parents to release their daughters from household responsibilities and allow them to attend school.
School feeding programs are implemented in the most food-insecure regions; WFP food provided to children at school constitutes a complementary, nutritious meal on feeding days.
The country office has learned that the meals eaten in schools have proven to increase attendance, performance, and nutrition. According to the study conducted by the Ministry of Education (August 2007), the attendance rate for girls in schools with feeding program is 49%, while only 41% for schools without feeding programs.
The indicators used to measure school performance include the success rate at secondary school. According to a survey of the CEPT exams taken in June 2006, the success rate is higher for schools with feeding programs. It is 90% for both girls and boys, and 84% for girls only.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
Resource constraints have forced WFP to prioritize schools in the rural and the most food insecure regions in Chad. The policy of the government is to accommodate all primary schools into the school feeding program. WFP will be conducting a mid-term evaluation of the school feeding program in 2009 with the intention of expanding the program into the most underprivileged communities of semi-urban quarters and institutions which provide care and education to street children.
In order to make school meals available for all children, mobilization and diversification of funding sources is very crucial. WFP is embarking on raising resources from traditional as well as non-traditional donors. The government also intends to provide school meals to all rural day schools in other regions not covered by the WFP School Feeding Program, in the south and north of the country. Its goal is to attract more kids to school.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program? What has been the effect of rising food prices in this funding effort?
While the Chad Government is very committed to the school feeding project, it has yet to commit adequate resources and take ownership of the program.
The involvement of donors at the country level is critical to facilitate fundraising efforts. Some donors have fully decentralized their decision-making process. Most of them consult their embassies or local representation before making any decisions about resource allocation. It is therefore of primary importance to engage with donors at the local level so that they will support WFP projects. It is also important for WFP to make a good, substantiated case for the additional needs locally, and to exercise prioritization as needed, so that resources made available by donors are truly additional and not diverted from ongoing needs/operations.
Food accounts for a large share of household expenditure in developing countries, and higher food prices have disproportionately affected the lowest-income countries, like Chad. With a strong response to high food prices from the international community, we hope that funding for the school feeding program will also increase. An investment in school feeding is an investment in the future.
As the international community responds to the global food crisis, we hope it will translate into more support for school feeding programs that cost very little – just 25 cents a day feeds a child at school – but provide incredible benefits to children.
The rising food prices have greatly impacted WFP activities generally, as well as the school feeding component. It should be noted that WFP is now purchasing most commodities at local and international markets at very high prices, above what was budgeted. Furthermore, the projects are not well resourced. In July of 2007, only 29% of operational requirements were sourced. Shortfall in resources and frequent pipeline breaks caused WFP to use reduced food rations in order to reach targeted beneficiaries.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
WFP accepts any contributions (in cash or in kind) from individuals or private companies that wish to support the school feeding program. Individuals can donate online. As businesses, foundations, and governments consider how to respond to the global food crisis, there is a potential that they will increase their support for WFP School Feeding Programs.
There are also annual fundraising events like "Walk the World," where money collected goes directly to under-funded school feeding programs.
There is also a need for complementary activities. Donations could be used to increase the supply of non-food items, in the construction of kitchens, to improve storage facilities and classrooms, or to support school gardens. NGOs can participate in capacity-building through teacher training.
Anything else you'd like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?
School feeding is one of the most reliable ways to ensure development in developing countries. It reduces hunger, violence, and poverty, and achieves gender equality and universal primary education. The more children have access to education, the more the country develops in the long run. School feeding programs are playing a vital role in ensuring that children get quality education. The WFP School Feeding Program keeps kids in school and reduces their chance of getting enlisted into the armies.
Access to basic education has been very limited during the recent past. According to the latest official statistics, the gross school enrollment rate was 75.4 percent in 2000–2001, with major differences between geographical areas and gender. In that school year, only 58.9 percent of girls attended primary school. Large numbers of pupils drop out, especially towards the end of the school year, a phenomenon affecting 9.2 % of schoolchildren at the national level (9% of boys and 11% of girls).
Eastern and northern Chad are war-torn areas with food deficits. Enrollment and attendance rates there are lower than in the rest of the country. The prevailing violence in this part of the country can be partially attributed to the fact that most of the inhabitants have no access to the basic knowledge or education they need to improve their livelihoods. Support for basic education is the gateway to meeting the social and economic challenges faced by the populations in this part of the country.
The WFP School Feeding Program currently targets primary schools in only five rural regions in central Chad, though hundreds of street children continue to hopelessly visit garbage dumps in urban areas with no opportunity to attend school. In this regard, additional support will allow WFP to extend its current program and reach more children.