The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Tajikistan build a national school feeding program. This is a major step toward eradicating child hunger and poverty in the country.
Right now, funding is a major issue with WFP facing a $2.7 million shortage for 2011. The World Food Programme relies on voluntary donations from the international community.
Russia is the largest donor to school feeding in Tajikistan and has just sent a new supply of food. In the meantime, schools in the northern region of Sughd are faced with reduced rations.
Alzira Ferreira, WFP Tajikistan director, says, “Given the increasing prices of food in Tajikistan and the Central Asia region, especially the price of wheat, the staple here, we are very keen to maintain the school feeding programme functioning at adequate levels, as school feeding is widely recognized as one of the most important food safety nets at times of price pressure on poorer households.” WFP reports that “The poorest groups of the population spend over 70 percent of their income on food.”
Low funding and high food prices place school feeding in Tajikistan in jeopardy (World Food Programme photo)
WFP is also researching the possibility of local food production to supply the school feeding. Buying locally saves money for WFP and gives farmers in Tajikistan a market for their product. With enough funding this local food purchase can go forward and benefit farmers in Tajikistan as well as school children.
The potential is there for school feeding to take off in Tajikistan. Will there be enough funding, though, to sustain the program, especially with high food prices? Will local production of food get off the ground? If these events happen Tajikistan may some day have its own sustainable school feeding program.