In historic milestone WFP completes handover of school meals to the Government of LAO PDR as programme
VIENTIANE – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has completed the handover of its school feeding programme to the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) of the Lao PDR, after almost 20 years of support to schoolgirls and boys in the country. School feeding in the remaining 915 WFP-supported schools across 8 provinces will now be incorporated into the National School Meals Programme.
School feeding first started in Laos in 2002, with a pilot programme by the Ministry of Education and Sports and WFP, in which 30,000 primary school children in Phongsaly, Oudomxay and Luangnamtha provinces were provided with mid-morning snacks. Starting from the 2016-2017 school year, more nutritious cooked meals replaced the mid-morning snacks. As the programme proved its worth, it was expanded, reaching 140,000 children in 1,430 schools across Laos.
“Well-nourished and healthy schoolchildren are better equipped to learn, fulfil their potential as adults and participate in a country’s development as productive citizens. I'm so excited to see WFP hand over this important programme to the government, and to know that more schoolgirls and boys will have a better chance of fulfilling their potential,” said Jan Delbaere, WFP Country Director and Representative.
A cost-benefit analysis of the Laos school feeding programme in 2018 showed that for every US$1 spent, the return-on-investment was US$6, through expanded and improved education, health and productivity. Not only has Laos seen growing enrolment rates over the past two decades, children receiving school meals are also spending six months longer at school compared to their peers, helping to ensure they complete their primary education, and unlocking more opportunities for the future.
“School meals have been instrumental in keeping our children in classrooms to learn and concentrate with full bellies. These school feeding programmes supported by WFP since the early 2000s have benefited hundreds of thousands Lao school kids from vulnerable areas across the country,” said Phout Simmalavong, Minister of Education and Sports. “The Government of Laos is committed to continuing to support these schools as part of the National School Meals Programme,” he added.
From the onset, both WFP and the MoES focused on making the programme nationally-owned and sustainable in the long-term, to ensure that schoolchildren could continue to receive nutritious meals at school. Following the adoption of the Government’s National Policy on Promoting School Lunches in May 2014, WFP shifted its focus from implementing the school feeding programme to building the capacity of the Government and communities, with the eventual goal of handing over the entire programme by 2021, ensuring its long-term viability.
In 2019, WFP handed over the programmes in 515 schools in Luangnamtha, Phongsaly and Oudomxay provinces. The remaining 915 schools that are being handed over to the government are in Luangnamtha, Phongsaly, Luangprabang, Oudomxay, Khammouan, Saravan, Sekong, and Attapau provinces.
“I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all partners that supported school feeding over the years. From donors, to the Government of Laos at all the levels, and from WFP’s implementing partners to district community facilitators, everybody contributed so that children can be healthy, well-nourished, stay in school longer, and learn better,” said Delbaere.
“WFP will continue assisting the Government of Laos and communities in building a sustainable government-led and community-run National School Meals Programme. Our investment today will contribute to a brighter future for Laos’ children tomorrow,” he added.
WFP has six decades of experience supporting school nutrition and health and of working with more than 100 countries to set up sustainable national school feeding programmes. WFP’s ultimate goal is to encourage and facilitate national government ownership and management of these programmes, a transition that has already been made in 46 countries. Laos takes that number to 47.
# # #
The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
Follow us on Twitter @wfp_media @WFP_AsiaPacific