WFP has been present in Benin since 1964, providing assistance to children enrolled in primary school, to orphans and vulnerable children, people living with HIV and vulnerable populations affected by emergencies such as floods, droughts, and the high food price crisis.
In partnership with the Government of Benin, WFP currently provides food assistance to children enrolled in public primary schools through its school meals programme, which operates in 6 of the 12 regions in the country, covering 364 schools and more than 100,000 students. The school feeding programme aims to support districts where there are high rates of poverty and chronic malnutrition and where net enrolment rates are below the national average. In some districts of Benin, the enrolment levels can be lower than 50%. Through the project, students in primary schools receive a daily meal made up of maize, beans, vegetable oil and salt. The daily meals help to increase enrolment and attendance rates and improve concentration during class.
WFP emphasizes the importance of community ownership of the school canteens. Parents’ Associations are involved in canteen management committees, contribution to the meals and the construction of kitchens and food storage areas. In order to encourage community development and local production, WFP plans to purchase 70% of commodities for the project on the local market, principally from small farmers. In 2012, 76 % of commodities that were distributed were purchased locally.Government capacity building for management of school canteens is a core aspect of the project’s strategy. WFP provides technical assistance to the Government of Benin in order to support the establishment and functioning of a national school feeding programme that will eventually take over from WFP.
Benin has experienced heavy flooding in recent years, which has exacerbated an already precarious nutritional situation in some of the most vulnerable regions of the country. WFP Benin has continued to assist vulnerable populations affected by floods in order to improve their nutritional status and enhance the resilience of local communities.
In 2010, Benin experienced heavy flooding that led to a significant deterioration of the country’s overall food security situation. The flooding left thousands of people homeless and caused considerable damage to community and individual assets. In response, WFP launched an emergency operation to meet the urgent needs of food-insecure, flood-affected populations. Under this operation, WFP provided a comprehensive assistance package to meet beneficiaries’ acute needs and to protect their livelihoods following the crisis. This included a series of nutrition and food-for-work activities which reached about 306,000 food-insecure, flood-affected people and host families.
Additionally, the rising waters of the Niger River in August 2012 had a critical impact on the northern regions of the country, causing severe flooding and affecting over 50,000 people in the communes of Karimama and Malanville. In response to the flooding, WFP launched an emergency operation in order to provide food assistance to flood affected people. The project paid special attention to the estimated 9,000 children under 5 years old from the affected communes by providing a ration to prevent acute malnutrition. The decision to target all children in this age group was taken based on the lack of structures to treat acute malnutrition in the area. The project also paid special attention to community members and families who hosted displaced people and with whom they shared their limited supply of food. These hosts are populations who already faced a precarious nutritional situation due to the 2011 drought and who needed immediate food assistance in the months to come.
The development of Disaster Risk Reduction activities is growing more relevant for Benin, where floods are becoming a more frequent phenomenon. Promoting capacity building through training with NGOs and the Government in order to reduce the negative effects of future floods is crucial.