In the regions of Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu in northern Mali, getting back to ‘normal’ life is an ongoing struggle. Families in these regions have faced a series of serious crises over the past few years – from droughts to violent clashes and ongoing security concerns.
In spite of these enduring challenges, families who fled their homes at the height of the security crisis are now returning. And, over the past school year, children have started to return to school – thanks in part to WFP school meals, made possible by funding from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO).
In 2013, as the security situation began to improve, the Malian government started down the path to post-war recovery with an ambitious back-to-school campaign called “Peace is back, school is back.” The campaign aims to help 500,000 children, whose education was disrupted, to get back to school and back on track.
When money is tight and a family’s livelihood depends on the next harvest, you can find lots of reasons to keep a child home from school – for example, an extra pair of hands and no added expenses to worry about.By providing two meals-a-day to children who attend school, parents can count on their children returning home, not only with an educated mind, but a full belly.
In the 617 schools assisted by WFP, student enrolment has gone up nearly 20 percent since December 2013. While this increase can’t be attributed solely to school feeding, partners and educators alike have told us that they believe it makes a significant difference.
The principal of the primary school in the village of Dendedjer in the region of Timbuktu told us that “Out of a total of 123 students, 122 have perfect attendance. The meals have really improved attendance and have also encouraged children to come to school on time.”
Thanks largely to funding from ECHO, the WFP emergency school feeding programme currently covers 130,000 children in 617 schools in Gao and Timbuktu.
As the security situation improves and schools are rebuilt to meet safety and quality criteria, WFP will continue to increase its school feeding programme. In 2014, WFP expects to feed 200,000 children in northern Mali.