Timor-Leste: Additional funding helps UN agency feed Timorese schoolchildren

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The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed additional support that will enable thousands of children in Timor-Leste to receive meals while attending school.

A $1.4 million contribution from the Governments of Spain and Brazil to the country's School Meals Programme, which will be channelled through WFP, will support meals for two months.

"This is a very timely donation as the School Meals Programme is in urgent need of additional resources," said Xinmin Zhao, WFP Acting Country Director in Timor-Leste.

"All children from grades one to nine in this country will benefit from this gift, which is a significant contribution not only for the immediate needs of the children, but for the future of this nation," she added.

WFP will use part of the funds to purchase beans from Timorese farmers and the rest to administer the distribution of the beans and to procure and distribute other food commodities for the programme.

According to the agency, the School Meals Programme not only improves enrolment and attendance of children going to school but also their ability to focus on learning. "A child with a full stomach is better able to concentrate in class," it noted in a news release.

WFP, assisted by its donors, provides basic food commodities including rice, beans, vegetable oil and iodized salt, as well as logistics and monitoring support for this programme which covers 324,000 children in all 13 districts of the country.

In addition, the Ministry of Education provides a cash incentive for people to cook the meals in school.

So far WFP has received 43 per cent of the $38 million required for operations in Timor-Leste, and more funds are urgently needed.