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In CAR, WFP providing school meals to more than 50,000 in capital Bangui

In Central African Republic (CAR), two thirds of schools remain closed as violence and unrest continue. But students are gradually finding their way back to school. WFP is supporting them through daily school meals, often the only food they eat during the day.

Every day, Charlotte Naganda and her team of 12 women are faced with the difficult task of feeding 3,000 schoolchildren at Bangui’s Benz Vi elementary school. The women start early in the morning, cooking rice and beans from WFP in enormous pots. The students’ parents provide the wood to build the fire.

In each class, students eagerly await the arrival of lunch, served in plastic bowls. “For some students, it’s the only meal they get during the day,” explains Joseph Regapa, the school’s director. Some eat just part of their meal and bring the rest home for dinner or to share.

Children often come far to get to school. Some still live in camps, while others have only just returned home. “They’ve seen a lot,” says Mr. Regapa, who also spent several weeks in a camp. “Now we’re trying to provide some comfort for them.” More than 111,000 people are still displaced in the capital.

For months, students have been unable to continue their studies. Hundreds of thousands were displaced, and schools closed and were often pillaged. According to UNICEF, one in eight children are out of school, and in May nearly a third of schools remained closed.

At the Malimaka elementary school a few kilometers away, recent events are hard to forget.  Many houses surrounding the school—destroyed during the violence—lie in ruin.  For weeks, the school served as a base for militia groups, who looted it completely before leaving. The school recently received new tables and benches, and each class now hosts over a hundred students.

“Since the WFP school feeding programme started, attendance has continued to rise,” explains Hugues Nestor Degbago, the school principal at Malimaka.

In Bangui, WFP distributes school meals daily to more than 50,000 children in 44 schools in areas of the capital most affected by the crisis. Students are also receiving meals from WFP in Kaga Bandoro, Bossangoa, Paoua and Bouar.