School canteens, from humanitarian aid to public service

School canteens, from humanitarian aid to public service

A child receives a plate of food at school. This image that is taken for granted in so many countries remains an illusion in many others who depend on humanitarian aid while governments do not take charge.

In Yemen, plunged since 2014 into a conflict with no sign of a solution, 18 million people go hungry in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world and, according to UNICEF, up to 3.7 million children run the risk of not going to school, while Two thirds of teachers have not collected their public salaries in two years.

That lack of education "will negatively affect the growth of the country," the Yemeni Minister of Education, Abdula Lamlas, admitted this week at an event in Rome.

Since last March and after a break of three years, the World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations has resumed a school feeding project in the country to serve about 110,000 children.

The most they receive are sticks of dates and energy biscuits enriched with vitamins and minerals, but it is that or nothing, due to the great difficulties in the field to supply a hungry population.

"We hope that WFP assistance can be expanded," said the minister, who also claimed water facilities and infrastructure for schools, many of them destroyed.

Between that type of extreme case, totally dependent on international cooperation, and those in which governments cover 100% of spending, the UN agency acts according to different contexts, according to its director of school feeding, Carmen Burbano .

"WFP also helps with technical assistance, experiences and support to design the policies," he told Efe Burbano, which figures between 60 and 70% the budget usually provided by the authorities of developing countries to finance public canteens.

In emergency situations, Burbano explained that "without infrastructure or safe water it would be very difficult to cook food for a community that is living in a camp."

That is why many times they resort to the provision of ready-prepared foods, such as enriched or easy-to-make cookies, such as certain corn, wheat and soybean compounds.

"There is hardly any possibility of transforming this model into a more comprehensive and complete one," said the official, who gave an example of the project of widows and female heads of families who have begun to prepare fresh foods with the help of the agency in the devastated city of Aleppo (Syria).

Sometimes companies and NGOs contribute funds and means, but in many places civil society is the key to ensuring that children receive a good diet, with parents and communities that cook and provide food, utensils or fuel.

Governments, as soon as they acquire "capacity and maturity", take control of school feeding programs.

"This year we celebrate the graduation of Kenya, which, after a transition of about ten years with us, has assumed responsibility for its program and as that case we have 44 countries," Burbano added.

In 2017, the organization implemented or supported school feeding programs in 71 countries, directly providing meals to 18.7 million children in 60 of them and training 65 governments.

In 46 of these countries, they have food produced by small farmers, a way to promote the local economy and customs, as well as social cohesion.

That idea has gained strength since in 2003 African governments decided to include local production in agricultural development programs and Brazil launched its Zero Hunger strategy, which included the acquisition of food.

The president of the Brazilian Fund for the Development of Education, Silvio Pinheiro, stressed that in his country 30% of public funds for school feeding should be earmarked for family farming, a weapon "against poverty" that, in addition, makes " Many children go to school, even if it's to eat. "

More than 40 million Brazilian students benefit from this model, which Brazil is exporting to 33 other African countries and 3 Latin American countries with which it collaborates, according to Pinheiro.


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