Located off Africa, the island country of Madagascar is often victimized by natural disasters which cause food shortages. In April 2008, Cyclone Ivan struck Madagascar, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) responded with emergency food aid.
WFP reports that “more than 70 percent of the population in Madagascar lives below the poverty line.” School feeding programs help children and their families as they attempt to break the cycle of poverty. In this interview with Nicolas Babu, School Feeding Program Officer for WFP Madagascar, we will examine this life-changing initiative.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP School feeding programs within the country?
Within the framework of its Country Program, WFP in 2007 assisted more than 60,000 pupils in 272 schools across 11 districts in the south of Madagascar – a part of the country prone to chronic drought and food insecurity. Thanks to funding from the Ministry of National Education (MNE) of Madagascar, WFP is currently expanding its program in order to reach 100% of the pupils in five of those districts– all of which suffer from low school enrollment rates and high levels of food insecurity. We anticipate that this expansion will enable WFP to reach, during the school year 2008/2009, a total of 180,000 pupils from 1,110 schools across these 11 school districts in southern Madagascar.
In addition, in April 2008, WFP intervened in the aftermath of Cyclone Ivan to give emergency assistance to 4,700 pupils on the hard-hit east coast of Madagascar. About nine metric tons of High Energy Biscuits were distributed to children during these emergency operations.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
School feeding acts as an incentive to persuade parents to enroll and keep their children in school. Moreover, by reducing immediate hunger, school feeding improves the ability of students to focus and concentrate on their studies. Overall, school feeding activities enhance the quality of education through better attendance and educational performance, as well as reducing school dropout rates.
Also, because drought is a chronic problem in the south of Madagascar, meals provided through school feeding programs provide a critical source of nutrition, and ensure the continuity of school attendance. In other words, we can help keep pupils in school during these crises. In such situations, school meals and education can also help restore a sense of normality despite the difficult situation.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
In 2007, the Malagasy Government, with the support of United Nations agencies, and especially with WFP, developed a National Strategy for School Feeding and Nutrition. This strategy is based on the principle that all children – especially those living in food-insecure areas – should have access to a primary education of good quality. Along with health and nutrition activities, school feeding is one of the pillars of this strategy.
The above-mentioned expansion of school feeding activities funded by the Malagasy Government took place within the framework of this strategy. Still within the framework of this strategy, ongoing discussions between WFP and the Ministry of National Education aim not only to intensify the program in the south, but to extend it further to the southeast of Madagascar, where there are also areas of high food insecurity.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program? What has been the effect of rising food prices on this funding effort?
The current school feeding operation is supported by various donors to the WFP Madagascar Country Program. As noted earlier, this program also receives funding from the Government of Madagascar. This funding comes from the Education For All – Fast Track Initiative (FTI) launched by the World Bank and development partners in order to help low-income countries meet the education Millennium Development Goals. The FTI funding is allocated through existing bilateral and multilateral channels and also through the FTI Catalytic Fund (CF), which supports countries that have insufficient resources so they can implement their sector plans.
Of course, given the rising food prices, the costs per child for WFP school feeding have also increased in Madagascar. However, we have managed to continue, thanks to the generous contributions from our donors.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
Potential donors can make in-kind contributions (rice, oil, or pulses) or cash contributions to WFP Madagascar. They can get in touch with the WFP Country Office at [email protected].
Walk the World
The donor community and other individuals and organizations can also contribute by participating in activities that support WFP School Feeding, such as Walk the World. Every year, like thousands of children and other caring citizens around the world, schoolchildren and partners of WFP in Madagascar take to the streets and walk to raise awareness and mobilize resources to end child hunger.