KATHMANDU - A delegation of representatives from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Ministry of Education, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have recently completed a field-visit mission in Dadeldhura and Bajhang districts in the far-western region to observe activities under the School Feeding Programme.
The visit followed a generous US$6 million (Rs. 536.58 million) annual contribution for three consecutive years (2011-2013) made by the USDA through McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition grant to WFP’s School Feeding Programme in Nepal. The funding will be used to provide mid-day meals for 210,000 children at 1800 pre-primary and primary schools in 11 districts of the mid- and far-western regions.
“WFP is very grateful for the generous support provided by the United States to the School Meals Programme in Nepal,” said Nicolas Oberlin, Deputy Country Representative for WFP Nepal. “This support comes at a critical time, when resources are scarce, to promote improved health and education for young school children in the most food-insecure areas of Nepal. WFP combines the school meals programme with infrastructure development, to significantly improve the learning environment and have a greater impact for quality education and better performance.”
During the mission, the officials visited three schools – Selaling Primary School in Dadeldhura, Shivabhawani Primary School and Kalika Bhagawati Primary School - in Bajhang district. The mission attended the inauguration of a new school building at Kalika Bhagawati Primary School. They also took part in the preparation and distribution of mid-day meals to children and spent time with the local authorities and the communities to witness the positive impact of the programme.
“I am very pleased to see that the United States Department of Agriculture support is helping thousands of school children in rural villages of Nepal receive the nutrition they need to pursue their studies and increase their ability to learn keeping hunger at bay,” said Mary Allen, Head of the USDA McGovern Dole mission.
Under the USDA McGovern-Dole funded School Support Programme, in collaboration with GIZ and the Government of Nepal, WFP is supporting activities such as the construction of school building and compound walls, ground-levelling, the use of smokeless cooking stoves and the upgrading of paths children take to walk to school. The projects are designed to improve school infrastructure and create a more conducive learning environment for the schoolchildren.
“We are delighted to work closely with WFP and GIZ in the school meals programme and building school infrastructures in remote areas of Nepal. WFP’s support has been vital to the Government of Nepal’s efforts to provide better access to education for poor children, including those belonging to underprivileged communities, and improve their lives and nutritional status,” said Kishore Thapa, Secretary at the Ministry of Education.
“The 63 schools under this project will offer basic education to more than 9,000 students. Experience shows that girls and children from extremely poor families are particularly encouraged to enroll, if proper school facilities are available nearby," said Claudia Maier, Programme Manager, GIZ-Improvement of Livelihoods in Rural Areas.
WFP’s school lunches are a lifeline for families trapped in hunger and poverty. The daily school meals provide a strong incentive for poor parents to send their children to school and help the children to focus on their studies. Educated children are likely to be strong and healthy adults who raise well-nourished children, breaking the cycle of hunger.
Around 3.5 million people are currently considered to be food-insecure in Nepal and 41 percent of the population is estimated to be undernourished. WFP plans to provide food assistance to over one million people in the country this year.