Aid agencies and education officials are concerned that scaling down school feeding programmers in impoverished rural areas of Afghanistan could adversely affect school attendance and the health and nutrition of hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren.
The concerns were prompted by a 14 April statement by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) which warned that funding shortfalls would threaten food aid delivery to millions of poor Afghans. WFP says it urgently needs 275 million $ to continue feeding over seven million vulnerable Afghans, including some two million schoolchildren.
WFP will be forced to reduce the school-feeding program in June only because our supplies of high-energy biscuits for distribution in schools are due to run out then. We urgently need new funding to replenish these supplies Marcus Prior, a WFP spokesman for Asia, told IRIN.
Other programmers such as food for work, food for tuberculosis patients,and distributions to other vulnerable people could also be affected.
This will have very negative consequences for education in Badakhshan Province, said Rohullah Hamid, a spokesman of the provincial education department, adding that school attendance had already dropped markedly in Yamgan District where food aid to students had been suspended.
School feeding and food aid to schoolchildren are important incentives for education in Afghanistan which has some of the worst literacy rates in the world.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said schooling may stop completely for some children without food aid and feeding programmers.
Official the Ministry of Education however, said suspending school feeding programmers would not have a catastrophic impact.
We know the program me is crucial and we support its continuation but don’t think the end of school feeding will have significant implications for the national education system said Sefatullah Sapai, my spokesman.