More than 1.5 million children across West and Central Africa risk going to school hungry or dropping out altogether, due to lack of financing for nourishing school meals,
According to a statement from the World Food Programme West African countries particularly at-risk include Liberia, Mali and Mauritania. It added that its school meals programme for nearly 83,000 children in Burkina Faso, is 0 per cent financed; the Nigerprogrammefor more than 250,000 pupils is 19 per cent financed; while the programme in Senegal is only five per cent funded at the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year.
“By failing to fully fund school meals, we are collectively short-changing the next generation and Africa’s future,.School meals are one of the best investments the international community can make to ensure a head start for young children in some of the world’s poorest countries,” ” said AbdouDieng, West and Central Africa regional director of the WFP.
In many areas of the region, WFP is the sole or main provider of school meals. Over the years, however, WFP has shrunk its coverage for lack of funds.
In conflict-torn Central African Republic, the programme for more than 200,000 youngsters is half funded, and in Niger, the programme for more than a quarter of a million pupils is 19 per cent financed.
The WFP-provided lunches and snacks are the only meal many youngsters eat all day. More broadly, the funding crunch puts at risk a whole generation, with broader spill-over effects on national economies and development.
“This is a crisis for education, but also a crisis for nutrition and food security which are the fundamental pillars of development,” said Mr. Dieng,
WFP studies show the meals help improve attendance and performance rates. They are also a key incentive for parents to send their children – particularly girls – to school and to keep them there.