Nepal’s out-of-school children get food at home

Children in Nepal are under the risk of severe malnutrition due to loss of household income and resulting food insecurity brought on by the lockdown to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

The extended closure of school means that 2.4 million children who used to benefit from the government’s school meals program are not getting supplementary nutritious food – especially in the grain deficit Far-western and Karnali Provinces.

Now, the World Food Programme (WFP) with the Nepal government are distributing 1,500 metric tons of fortified rice, lentils and vegetable oil donated by the United States to school-going children from grades 1-8 in rural Nepal.

The campaign will benefit families most vulnerable to COVID-19 lockdown impact in the western provinces.

“The lockdown has put a far greater burden on parents to provide their children with balanced and nutritious meals at home,” says Pippa Bradford, WFP Country Director in Nepal. “These take home rations will provide an interim respite for these families until children return to school – while facilitating at-home learning.”

Families in western Nepal are unable to provide enough daily food for themselves or their children, so often opt to keep the children at home rather than send them to school on empty stomachs. But many schools in the recent years have been able to motivate poor parents from food-deficit districts to send their children to school knowing that they will be fed a free lunch.

Because most families in the region are subsistence farmers and do not grow enough food, many of their men are seasonal migrants to India. However, this year many of them have lost their jobs and have come home to Nepal.

Says American Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry: “The United States is proud to stand together with Nepal in supporting and protecting the most vulnerable among us. Our partnership with the United Nations World Food Program and the Government of Nepal to distribute rations to school children in Sudur Paschim and Karnali provinces will help 150,000 families through these difficult times.”

In turn, school feeding program has helped enroll more children and successfully retain them as well as increase their nutritional status with healthy school lunch.

Since 2005, the U S Government’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program has been supporting the WFP school meal initiative in Nepal with a total contribution of more than $81 million, helping over 250,000 children access nutritious food.

WFP has started handing over McGovern-Dole supported schools to the Nepal government, and about 95,000 students have already been integrated into the government’s national school meal program.

WFP with the support of the US government is also working to ensure and widen the supply of local food to schools. Home Grown School Feeding program has focused on linking school meals to local agricultural production.

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