The World Food Program began a massive school lunch program this past May across the Central African Republic. This week, they began a campaign that aims to battle common intestinal worm infections in children in cooperation with the school lunch program.
Many children in the Central African Republic suffer from intestinal worm infections that affect their health, ability to intake nutrition, mental development and ability to study in school. The program that collaborates with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education aims to improve the health of 250,000 children across the Republic.
One deworming pill is effective for six months. When children are healthy and worm-free, they can both focus in school and study at home more effectively.
The school lunch program that began in early May of 2015 has been very effective so far. Over 155,000 metric tons of food have been distributed. Ninety schools, over 70,000 primary school children and 4,300 elementary school children across the capital of the Central African Republic are currently receiving school lunches.
The meal includes rice, beans, oil and salt. In many cases, this school lunch is the only food children will consume in a day. The food encourages families to value attendance and enrollment in school. It also improves the efficacy of the children’s schooling experience, enabling concentration and enthusiasm.
The school lunch and deworming campaign in the Central African Republic follows political violence, armed conflict and chaos that began in December of 2014. Thousands of people have been killed and almost 1 million have left their homes due to political violence.
The instability and violence caused the majority of schools in the Central African Republic to close, leaving children without access to education. The few schools that remained open were too unsafe for children to attend. According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, about 45 percent of schools are currently still closed in the Central African Republic and 35 percent of the population is food insecure.
According to the U.N., 3,500 to 6,000 children have been recruited as child soldiers in armed groups in the Central African Republic. Parents and many organizations like World Vision are encouraging school attendance in an effort to diminish children’s vulnerability to recruitment.
According to World Vision, Claudia Geraldine, a teacher from Bangui that educates boys and girls from age 5 to age 14 said, “I’m encouraging parents to send children to school now because it is safe.”
The school lunch and deworming programs have so far been successful due to the tenacious, determined, collaborative efforts of local community members along with large organizations. “Everybody plays a part in the process. The head of the school organizes the logistics and mobilizes parents to help. Local women volunteer to prepare the food, and the children fetch water. This is making a real difference in the lives of children in Bangui,” said Fikru Gebeyehu, a World Vision food assistance expert.
– Margaret Anderson