People fleeing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have sought refuge in neighboring Iran. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reports that Iran “currently hosts some 950,000 refugees, the majority of them Afghans.” WFP is helping to provide aid to these refugees, including school feeding programs with take-home rations. Negar Gerami of the World Food Programme recently took time to discuss school feeding for children. School feeding can make a powerful difference in their struggle to overcome the hardship of being a refugee.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
The WFP school feeding program in Iran benefits refugee girls from Iraq and Afghanistan. Currently, over 2,200 Afghan and Iraqi girls in primary school are benefiting from the program. As an incentive for their families to send them to school, they receive take-home rations of vegetable oil to share with their families.
Discuss what effect the program has on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
The take-home rations have been very successful in providing an incentive for families to send their daughters to school. The girls and their female teachers are given a tin of vegetable oil each month to encourage them to attend school regularly. As a result of this program, school enrollment for girls has increased dramatically over the last few years. The success of this program lies in its impact on the refugee household's budget and food consumption. Bringing home oil helps girls contribute to the household. It has helped change the mindset of conservative Afghan families who did not send their girls to school prior to this program. The sense of empowerment and self-value this gives to the girls has had a very positive impact.
What plans are there for making take-home rations available for all girls in school?
Steady progress has been made with the take-home ration incentive and it is regarded as an extremely successful activity by both the authorities and the refugee community. As a result, WFP is planning to expand the program into secondary schools, both in the camps and in schools close-by that some of the girls attend. WFP has agreed to this expansion based on feedback from interviews with the beneficiaries of the program. In camps where there are secondary schools, the oil will be distributed at the schools. Where the secondary schools are located outside the camps, documentation will be obtained from the school authorities to ensure that the girls have attended school regularly, and the monthly distribution will take place at the camps.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the take-home rations program?
The source of funding, as with all other WFP activities, is donations. We currently rely on multilateral resources, but we hope to obtain directed bilateral donations for this important program.
What has been the effect of high food prices on this funding effort?
High food prices have forced us to stretch our already limited resources even further. Our money buys fewer commodities than before, but the need in the camps has not decreased.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
You can support us by donating online at the WFP website. It takes just 25 cents (USD) to fill one of the "red cups" that the World Food Programme uses to give hungry children a regular school meal of porridge, rice, or beans. Feeding ten children for a week costs just $15 (USD). Your donation will help support WFP's school feeding programs, emergency relief operations, and development initiatives.