Covid-19 closed classrooms around the world. The classes were moved to the classrooms of each family, but not everything that happened in the school could also be moved to the homes of the students. The plate of food did not reach all the kitchens. In 2020, about 1.5 billion children were left without school and of them, 370 million, without access to school breakfasts and lunches, as the report indicated last March The State of School Feeding Worldwide 2020 of the World Food Program (WFP).
“Can you concentrate when you are hungry? Neither do I”. A girl asks this simple question during the presentation on Tuesday of the Coalition for School Feeding, an international initiative designed to ensure that all school children have the opportunity to receive a healthy and nutritious meal by 2030. Currently, more than 150 million children they still do not receive food and basic health and nutrition services.
The new program, led by France and Finland and supported by more than 60 countries, including Spain, also has the support of the main UN agencies. In a joint statement, Unicef, FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), UNESCO and the World Food Program (WFP) pledged to support this coalition that reinforces “the growth and development of school children and adolescents”. “It can help combat child poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all its forms”, they add in this same document.
One of the commitments that has been announced in the presentation of the platform, officiated by Malian actress and singer Inna Modja, has been the increase in lunches by the Government of Rwanda, to 3.3 million students in 2021, five times more than the 640,000 it reaches now.
The UN, through these five agencies, has committed to working with the governments involved to achieve the coalition’s goals, providing technical and operational support where needed, as well as advocating for funding and helping to collect better data on the impact of the school and its health and nutrition projects.
The new initiative aims to reach 73 million children who did not access the school feeding program before covid-19. 90% of these students come from the African continent
Schoolchildren, according to the signatories of the joint statement, are not the only ones who benefit. The leaders of the five agencies noted that school meals can serve as a “springboard” for the transformation of the food system. For international organizations, wherever possible, the priority will be to use locally grown food, thereby supporting national markets, improving opportunities for small farmers and caterers in each country, many of them run by women. “One of the examples that this symbiosis is possible is exemplified by Cambodia, where 267 schools from seven different provinces have alliances with 665 farmers in the area,” explains Nancy Aburto, FAO’s executive director of nutrition.
“This commitment was born after the crisis caused by covid-19, but we are hopeful because it is the beginning of a new stage. We want it to be a transforming initiative with the community, which generates employment and wealth among small farmers; that has an impact on the health of the little ones, in addition to establishing a new, more sustainable relationship with food ”, adds Carmen Burbano, director of the WFP school feeding division.
Restoring school meals and getting where you didn’t before
The importance of school, beyond teaching, has been evident in the consequences, in the medium and long term, that schoolchildren around the world have suffered and still suffer: child exploitation has increased so far this year and The return to school for many, with the prolonged closure of educational centers, especially for girls, is almost a utopia. “The project has the potential to help countries to get out of the crisis caused by the covid, but also to help children return to the classroom; repair the damage done to their education, create local jobs and establish strong connections between small producers and schools. We are proud to support him, ”said David Beasley, WFP Executive Director.
But what will this coalition do and how will it work? The program will work to restore school meals and other health and nutrition programs that were in place prior to the pandemic. In addition, the new initiative aims to reach 73 million children who did not access the school feeding program before covid-19. Of this figure, it is estimated that 90% are distributed in low- and middle-income countries, mainly on the African continent, including Niger, Chad, Mali, South Sudan or the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
To meet the food needs of these 73 million schoolchildren, the WFP estimates that 4,151 million euros (4.7 billion dollars) are needed, of which more than 2,600 They will be contributed by the different governments from their national budgets, and the rest – 1,500 – will have to come from contributions from the international community through donations. “This is not a call to action for the money. Our wish is for it to be a platform for community development, but also for sustainability and resilience ”, concludes Burbano.
You can follow PLANETA FUTURO in Twitter, Facebook e Instagram, and subscribe here a nuestra ‘newsletter’.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.