The Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, James Morris, called on heads of state to commit to a global plan of action to solve malnutrition and illiteracy among the world’s 300 million chronically hungry children.
Morris, who heads the world’s largest humanitarian organisation, says that a global school feeding programme would immediately address a number of these problems.
He urged the world leadersto commit to a simple idea that, if fully implemented, would dramatically improve the lives of impoverished children.. That idea is a global school feeding programme.
Of the world’s 300 million chronically hungry children, 170 million are often forced to learn on empty stomachs because they receive no food at school; 130 million do not attend class at all. Over sixty percent of these children are girls.
The catalyst for educating poor children is food.
Research and experience show that when food is provided at school, hunger is immediately alleviated and attendance often doubles within one year. Within two years, academic performance can improve by as much as 40 percent and students remain in school longer and more graduate. Long/term studies indicate that increased literacy rates among girls and women mean they have fewer, but healthier, children.
“Using food to attract poor children to school and to keep them there is a surprisingly simple but effective way to make an impact,” said Morris. “A school feeding programme that is truly global in scale would immediately make a difference in the lives of children now.”
Morris referred to the successful post/war school feeding programmes in Europe, Japan and the United States that helped create healthy and educated generations of children who as adults helped create strong economies.
These types of programmes have been in place for years in the west and Japan. Now it’s time we did the same for the developing world.
Over the past 40 years, WFP has become the largest provider of school meals to poor children. Last year, the agency launched a global campaign to feed and educate millions more children. The new initiative is thanks in large part to an initial $140 million contribution from the US government. Other recent donors include France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany. In 2001, the agency was able to feed over 15 million school children in 57 countries.
We need unified commitment and a simple but effective action plan that addresses the two primary ills facing poor children today: malnutrition and illiteracy.
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