Dressed in their school uniforms, the students at El Wak Primary School are a blur of green and white as they squeeze onto the school’s basic wooden benches. Around 400 pupils attend the school in southwestern Somalia, just over the border from Kenya.
In this particular class, the students are studying English, and they are reciting the parts of the body. They begin by slowly pointing to their noses and hands, etc., and then all of a sudden burst into a very energetic rendition of the song “Head, shoulders, knees and toes.”
Then it’s time for a mid-morning snack consisting of a packet of fortified high-energy biscuits. WFP provides these to make sure that each child has something to eat during the day, thus ensuring that they receive essential nutrients, and also enabling them to concentrate on their lessons. Anyone who has tried to concentrate while being constantly reminded they haven’t eaten knows that it isn’t easy.
Most of the pupils come from pastoralist families who have suffered long and hard due to the droughts that have dogged Somalia over recent years.
Abdullahi Mohamed is a shy boy, and he quietly says that his family has been hard up for some time now. They moved to El Wak from the countryside about five years ago when they lost all of their livestock. Now, even though his father trades in small amounts of food, his tiny business simply doesn’t bring in enough money to give the family more than one meal a day, which is served in the evening.
When asked what difference the biscuits make to him, Abdullahi simply says, “My stomach – if I don’t get them, I’m hungry.”