Landlocked in the eastern Himalayas between India and China, Bhutan was in self-imposed isolation for centuries, only moving on a cautious plan of development with the launching of the first Five Year Plan (FYP) in 1961.
The country’s development philosophy stresses the achievement of equitable and sustainable development over economic growth at any cost. From the beginning, particular emphasis was placed on human development. However, close to one-third of the population suffers from food insecurity and it depends on imports for 34 percent of its cereal needs.
Bhutan is also prone to natural disasters, especially during the rainy season and access roads to remote areas may be closed for up to half the year.
WFP focuses on improving rural, food-insecure households’ access to education, health and agricultural services and enabling them to increase incomes and create assets. This is done through development project 10579.0 (Improving Rural Children's Access to Basic Education with a Focus on Primary Education).
This project addresses short-term hunger faced by children living far away from schools and reduces the financial burden on poor rural parents; it also assists in alleviating certain micronutrient deficiencies, while contributing to an overall improvement of school enrolment rates and attendance. Particular attention is given to reducing gender disparity in education.
The objectives of this operation are to:
- increase school enrolment, particularly among girls, for children in poor, food-insecure rural communities;
- maintain regular school attendance, particularly among girls;
- reduce gender disparity;
- alleviate short-term hunger and help children to concentrate in class; and
- enhance the capacities of the Government to manage the school meals programme.
The Government of Bhutan has been incrementally assuming responsibility of the school meals programme. This project reflects the transitional phase to full Government support. Therefore, the focus of WFP's operations in Bhutan through to 2012 will be on primary education and capacity building of government counterparts.