Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Good news from Sahel as school meals kick off in Chad

Photo: Flickr / DFAT photo library, 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Hot meals, served daily to more than 200,000 students, might have seen like a distant dream not so long ago, but is today becoming reality for children in Chad.

For the first time since the beginning of its operations in Chad 50 years ago, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has received a contribution of 182 metrics tons of food from the Chadian government for its school meals programme. The donation is worth US$400,000 dollars (almost FCFA 200 million).

Every morning, hundreds of children go to school on an empty stomach in Chad. This prevents them from concentrating on their lessons and naturally makes them less likely to attend school regularly. To address this problem, WFP has been working with the Ministry of Education and Literacy in proving school meals to more than 800 schools in the Sahelian belt, which is the part of the country most affected by food insecurity.

The school meals will encourage children to attend school and provide an incentive for their families to send them to school, rather than to work in the fields.

"We were delighted to receive this first donation from the Chadian government,” said Lauren Landis, WFP Chad Country Director. “It shows recognition of the need for WFP food assistance in the schools and highlights the strong partnership between the Government and WFP, aiming at encouraging the enrolment of children in school in Chad.”

Through this school meals programme, WFP hopes to strengthen its partnership with the Government and with local farmers, in order for most of the food required for the school meal programme to be grown and purchased locally. This not only helps support the local economy but also means the whole community is involved in this school meals initiative.

In 2013, Chad faced two simultaneous refugee emergencies with some 10,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), and over 30,000 Sudanese refugees from West Darfur. The country, however, continues its open-door policy towards refugees.

Poverty in Chad has been aggravated by several conflicts during its 50 years of independence. The country has remained quite stable since 2008, but is now subject to spill-over effects from crises in neighboring Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is estimated that there are 330,000 refugees in Chad, which puts additional pressure on the limited resources of the already highly vulnerable local population.

Child malnutrition and recurrent epidemics are a major problem in the country. Nutritional surveys conducted in 2013 confirmed that acute malnutrition rates remain high in the Sahelian Belt, with five out of ten regions showing rates of global acute malnutrition near or above the 15 percent critical threshold set by the World Health Organization for emergency interventions.

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