School Meals Under Threat In Madagascar

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Tsiory does some tricky calculations at school. © WFP/Narindra Raharijaona

Around the world, WFP's school meals programme helps improve students’ performance in class and reduce their drop-out rate. But underfunding has led to cutbacks in Madagascar. This is the story of their impact on two of the island’s children.

Tsiory (13) and Stephanie (8) live with their parents and their two younger brothers in Anosipatrana, a slum area of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. They are among 70 children from vulnerable families who used to get lunch every day at the 3F Centre, one of 180 centres for orphans and vulnerable children that were supported by the World Food Programme through a school meals scheme for the island’s urban areas. Since early February, however, WFP’s school meals initiative has been suspended due to lack of funding. Tsiory and Stephanie often get only one meal a day now because their parents are so poor.

“My dad has been looking for a job for months but cannot find one,” says Tsiory. “My mother earns a living by doing laundry for local families for about 2,000 Ar (one dollar) a day. When we had school meals, my parents were happy knowing that my sister and I were getting something to eat every day. We couldn’t wait to get to school but now Stephanie doesn’t want to go anymore. It’s different for me as I have my first big exam this year.”

Rice, beans, oil

The basic ingredients of the school meal – rice, beans and oil - were provided by WFP. They were cooked on the school premises and served by volunteers from the parents’ association every morning.

“When we had support from WFP, no children dropped out of school”, says Noro Maurille, the centre’s manager. “They were happy to go there and the families’ expenses were reduced. These meals made a real difference since most of parents are poor and cannot afford to give their children regular meals”.

Nutrients they need

Tsiory and Stephanie are among 30,000 children in centres for orphans and vulnerable children who are no longer receiving daily school meals. Of the 215,000 children in regular schools who were in the school meals programme, only 156,000 of these will continue to get daily meals at school – and only until the end of next month.

Without more funding - and without such daily meals to sustain them during their day and give them the nutrients they need - Tsiory’s dream of becoming a mechanic and Stephanie’s goal of becoming a doctor are likely to be even further beyond their grasps.