Children who lack certain nutrients in their diet, or who suffer from protein-energy malnutrition, hunger, parasitic infections or other diseases, do not have the same potential for learning as healthy and well-nourished children. WFP provides mid-morning snacks to 32,060 primary school students at the Sahrawi refugee camps in Algeria to increase school attendance and retention and to improve their learning capacities.
WFP, in cooperation with Italian NGO Comitato Internazionale per lo Sviluppo dei Popoli (CISP), which focuses on development cooperation and humanitarian aid, completed in June 2014 its school feeding programme at Algeria’s Sahrawi refugee camps for the academic year 2013/2014. A total of 32,060 primary school children received a mid-morning snack over the span of 156 days.
The objective of WFP’s school feeding programme in Algeria is to maintain enrolment and attendance of refugee girls and boys and to alleviate short-term hunger. As such, large quantities of food were distributed at primary schools in the five refugee camps near the town of Tindouf, located about 2,000 km southwest of Algiers. The distributed food includes almost 400 metric tonnes of dried skimmed milk, 150 metric tonnes of dates and 200 metric tonnes of fortified date bars.
WFP’s school feeding programme does not end at serving a ‘lunch box’ to school children. It also comprises work and investment for the improvement of school kitchens, such as the purchase of utensils, cleaning materials and cups for the children. This is in addition to rehabilitation of classrooms –providing access to water is carried out by UNICEF and UNHCR respectively- as well as the participation of communities in maintenance activities. WFP’s work, along with its partners at the Sahrawi camps, helps to create an enabling environment in which children can learn.
As part of the programme, WFP and CISP carry out hygiene campaigns aimed at preserving students’ health and reducing irregular school attendance. This year, for the first time ever at the Sahrawi refugee camps, a de-worming campaign was implemented.
Primary school students at the Sahrawi refugee camps also joined this year the United Nation’s ‘Zero Hunger’ contest organized by WFP. The five best artworks will participate in the final selection round at WFP headquarters in Rome, competing with creations from around the world. The winning artists and the schools they attend will receive a cash prize.
The school feeding programme responds to the findings of the Joint Assessment Mission carried out by WFP and UNHCR in 2011, which found that school attendance was far below official enrolment data, reflecting seasonal illness among other factors. The mission also noted that kitchens, water and sanitation conditions were considerably below acceptable standards.
WFP will continue to provide commodities for the school feeding programme when received as in-kind contributions (such as dried skimmed milk and dates) as the Sahrawi authorities do not have independent means; however, WFP plans for a gradual handover of the programme’s management to the education authorities. In light of this, CISP provides on-the-job training to Sahrawi staff on areas such as monitoring attendance and sampling reconstituted milk for laboratory analysis.
WFP’s school feeding programme will resume in October after the summer holidays. The initiative is carried out in close coordination with Western Sahara Red Crescent and the Refugee Education Authorities.