School meals for 15,000 children in Aleppo is ‘a turning point’

World Food Programme Aleppo
WFP is providing school meals each day to more than 17,000 children in Aleppo (United Nations World Food Programme)

Barriers to education, Children in conflicts, Education in emergencies, Safe schools

Meals are being distributed to children at 30 schools in parts of the Syrian city that had been inaccessible because of the fighting.

In some parts of the world, a school meal can mean the difference between a child getting an education or not. 

As well as reducing hunger and improving health, it increases school attendance and improves a child’s ability to concentrate and learn.

So it’s great news that meals are being distributed for the first time to Syrian children at public primary schools in parts of Aleppo city that had been inaccessible to humanitarian organisations because of the conflict.

Five days ago, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began delivering school meals that include a carton of milk fortified with vitamins and minerals and a locally-baked date bar. Already the programme is reaching about 15,000 children at 30 schools.

School Meals Lebanon

Meals and snacks, like these provided by Theirworld to refugees in Lebanon, give children the nutrition they need to concentrate and learn in class (Hussein Baydoun / Theirworld)

 “This is a turning point for children in Aleppo, many of whom haven’t attended school for years because it was simply too dangerous to go outside due to constant fighting,” said WFP Syria Country Director and Representative Jakob Kern. 

“Now that relative stability has returned to Aleppo, these daily nutritious meals encourage parents to send their children – especially girls – to school and to keep them there.”

The British charity Mary’s Meals is also supplying meals to almost 1500 students at six locations.

Mary’s Meals founder Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow said: “After a four-year battle for Aleppo, the siege is over and children have the chance to start regaining their childhoods.

“Through Mary’s Meals, both the immediate needs of today, and the longer-term necessity of education, will be nourished and nurtured through each meal served by local volunteers.”

Yesterday was International School Meals Day, which aims to raise awareness of the need for good nutrition for children. WFP provides school meals or take-home rations to 17.4 million children in more than 60,000 schools across the world.

The Syrian crisis, which will enter its seventh year next week, has left 1.75 million children and young people out of school.

In 2014, WFP launched its school meals programme in Syria by providing meals in Tartous, Rural Damascus and Aleppo governorates. 

By the end of the 2016 academic year, it had expanded and reached nearly 500,000 children in 10 governates.

This year WFP plans to scale up its school meals programme to reach up to 750,000 children – in addition to a programme that plans to provide 50,000 out-of-school children with vouchers.

Threat to school meals for millions of Indian children.

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