The Government of Liberia and the United Nations World Food Programme this week launched urban school feeding in the capital Monrovia for 150,000 children short of food because of high food prices.
In addition, another 400,000 rural school children in Liberia will continue to benefit from Government-WFP school feeding programmes during the 2008/2009 school year.
As the Government of Liberia responds to the impact of high food prices, WFP remains in the forefront of efforts to lessen their impactThomas Yanga, WFP's West Africa Regional Director
Therefore more than half a million children at 2,600 Government and community primary schools in all 15 counties will receive daily meals at school under these programmes.
High food prices
“The war is over in Liberia but economic challenges remain. High food prices make it harder for poor families to feed their children, and learning is difficult on an empty stomach,” said Assistant Education Minister Keturah Siebu at the launch of the urban school feeding programme.
The assistant minister appealed to WFP, through its visiting West Africa Regional Director Thomas Yanga, to keep supporting the Government’s school feeding programme.
“As the Government of Liberia responds to the impact of high food prices, WFP remains in the forefront of efforts to lessen this impact by working in close collaboration with the Ministry of Education to confront the obstacles in achieving universal primary education and to help children in the face of food insecurity” said Yanga.
Liberia is particularly vulnerable to high global food prices because of its heavy reliance on imports to meet national food needs.
Strategic response by Government
A recent assessment of the impact of high food prices conducted by the Government with UN and NGO partners found that the high rates of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition mean that the poorest people have difficulty coping with food price shocks. The Government has formulated a strategic response aimed at protecting vulnerable groups from such shocks through safety net interventions such as school feeding.
In isolated southeastern counties, low school enrolment and a wide gender gap in upper primary education coincide with high levels of chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.
The Government of Liberia and WFP have responded to this need through the start of a three-year development school feeding project which will run from September 2008 to August 2011 in Grand Gedeh, Grand Kru, Maryland, River Gee and Sinoe Counties.
Cooked meals and take-home rations
The goal of this project is to improve access to primary education for boys and girls through the distribution of daily cooked meals, and for upper primary girls through distribution of monthly take-home food rations in addition to the daily meals. The project will involve close collaboration between the Ministry of Education and WFP. It is expected that WFP will eventually hand over the project to the Government.
The development school feeding project is also an avenue to respond to the impact of high food prices on rural school children. The World Bank has also provided a total of US$4 million to be used over a two-year period to support school feeding in Liberia.
Donors to school feeding include: The World Bank, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Saudi Arabia and Sweden.