School Feeding Gives Iraqi Children Hope For A Better Future

WFP is providing school meals in Thi Qar, one of Iraq's most disadvantaged governorates, until the end of May 2015. Improving health and education is a priority for the governorate and daily school meals give parents an incentive to send their children to school and keep them there. Mohamed Jalil is one of 21,000 children benefiting from this.

Thi Qar, SOUTHERN IRAQ –  Referred to by many as the original Garden of Eden, the marshes of southern Iraq experience one of the highest poverty rates in the country due to the draining of the marshlands in the 1980s, impacting the economy in the area.

Reducing drop out rates

Mohamed Jalil is one of many children living in poverty in the marshland district of Chibayish. The road to his school cuts through the marshes and is lined with straw houses that are often soaked inside and out from the rain. On weekends, he helps his father sell fish in the market place for a living. 

Mohamed Jalil, close-up
Mohamed Jalil is one of  the 21,000 children receiving WFP school meals in the Iraqi governatorat of Thi Qar. (Photo:WFP/Mohammed Al Bahbahani)

The 11-year-old dreams of one day becoming a pharmacist so he can “help people get better.” He and the rest of his classmates are a step closer to realizing their dreams. The fifth grader now goes to school every day and is able to learn about his favourite subject; Science.

“Now I come to class every day; I attend lessons, play with my classmates and eat a delicious meal every morning,” says Mohamed. He says the daily meals gives him more energy to learn and play football; his favourite sport. 

“This meal is important because it helps me stay focused on what my teacher is saying in class. It is good for my body too”

The meals WFP provides are keeping more children in school and reducing dropout rate as parents ensure their children’s attendance, knowing that they will get a meal. They help break the cycle of malnutrition among the children of Chibayish.

WFP, in cooperation with Iraq’s Ministry of Education, began in February providing daily meals to 21,000 children across 73 schools in Thi Qar. The meals include a slice of bread, cheese, fruit, milk or juice providing children with much-needed nutrients to help both their brains and bodies. 

“This meal is important because it helps me stay focused on what my teacher is saying in class. It is good for my body too,” says Mohamed.

Breaking the cycle

Many of Mohamed’s classmates were found to be too short and underweight for their age - a tell-tale sign of malnutrition. Since WFP school meals were introduced, teachers have reported greater signs of energy and happiness in the children

By going to school, and getting the proper nutrition, Mohamed is taking a step out of poverty, with the opportunity to continue his education and improve the lives of those around him when he grows up.

“I want to help my family and others;” he says.

WFP aims to reach more children like Mohamed in the coming years and is extending school meals across the country. 
Help us feed more children like Mohamed, donate a WFP school meal today.