Almirante has a reason to be happy of beginning the school year: he’ll be given a daily meal as part of the ‘Food For Knowledge’ program, currently implemented by ADPP Mozambique and Planet Aid Inc., in the province of Maputo. The objective of the program is to offer daily meals for 60.000 school children during a three year period (2013-2015) and to raise awareness on the importance of healthy eating habits.
During the last two decades, Mozambique has seen an economic growth of between seven and eight percent, yet over half the population continues to live below the poverty line. Children are the most harmed by this situation. It is estimated that up to 44% of children under five in the country are physically or mentally impaired – in technical terms, stunted - because of severe malnutrition.
This also makes them more vulnerable to fatal diseases such as malaria or AIDS.
“A stunted child is not only shorter than it should be, but it will also most likely suffer compromised cognitive development and have difficulties learning, and ultimately this will have a negative effect on employability, which in turn affects gross national product and the development of the nation itself”, says UNICEF Mozambique Nutrition Specialist Maaike Arts.
Besides providing daily school meals, the ‘Food For Knowledge’ program gives courses to more than 4.000 primary school teachers in nutrition, community health practices, and small-scale agricultural and economic development techniques. The program will also equip all schools in the program with a kitchen and a storage space and those that lack a dependable water source, will receive a potable water supply.
Julieta Simango, director of the primary school Chicuachana, explains that “the food we give to the kids make a great difference. Not only do we see it in improving school attendance, but, thanks to the daily nutritious lunches, the children are now more attentive and participative during the classes”.