WFP-UNICEF Partnership For Young Children Continues To Grow In Malawi

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In the midst of responding to devastating floods that hit Malawi in early 2015, WFP continues to work towards eliminating hunger by safeguarding the social sector and supporting education.

Yana Chitalo is a caregiver at the Nchalo Community-Based Childcare Centre (CBCC) in Chikhwawa, one of the 17 flood-affected districts. With the help of other community members, Nchalo CBCC aims to provide children with a good start during their early years.

Yana’s reasons for helping at the centre recently multiplied; thanks to a WFP-UNICEF early learning partnership that is expanding throughout the country, more children are now attending the centre.

The partnership began in 2012 and supports a joint Early Childhood Development (ECD) programme— under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare—to foster the full cognitive, emotional, social and physical development of children. The ECD programme also reduces underage enrolment in primary schools and creates a smooth transition for children going from CBCCs to primary schools, overall helping to increase the time that a child stays in school.

WFP carries out activities in 35 CBCCs throughout Malawi, reaching 7,000 children aged 3 to 5 years of age. Children at the centres receive fortified porridge made from Super Cereal, while WFP also provides training for caregivers on school feeding management. WFP has begun scaling-up support to reach an additional 14,000 children at 58 more CBCCs in 2015.

To complement WFP’s efforts, UNICEF trains caregivers in early childhood education to improve opportunities for young children to learn. Play kits provided to the CBCCs contain early learning materials, including puppets, puzzles, story books, crayons and paints for drawing and games that help develop thinking, speaking and socializing.

Yana reflects on the recent transformation at her center, saying “support from WFP and UNICEF have changed things within a short period of time.”

“The food ensures children remain in school and the training has helped us caregivers understand how to adapt our teaching methods to the children’s ages,” Yana says.

According to District Social Welfare Officers and WFP monitoring reports, enrolment at CBCCs increased by 15 percent between the start of the programme in 2012 and the end of 2014.

WFP and UNICEF continue to advocate for increased ECD investment to support government plans to scale-up ECD programmes throughout Malawi. Already, ECD programmes have grown from reaching a mere one percent of young children in the 1990s to about 40 percent today.

“We have received reports from the nearest primary school that our CBCC graduates are performing better than those who do not attend the CBCC,” Yana says.

The dual support of food and educational playtime provides an immediate reason for youngsters to smile, while also helping to address intergenerational hunger.