Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of schoolchildren are now missing out on the school meals on which they depend.
Partial or country-wide closures of schools have been reported in almost all countries where the World Food Programme (WFP) implements school feeding programmes. This means that millions of children – the exact number raising daily – are no longer receiving WFP school meals.
The effects on children and their families are dire. These children are at risk of hunger and will no longer have the protection of key vitamins and micronutrients they receive in the school meals.
For poor families, the value of a meal in school is equivalent to about 10 percent of their monthly income. For families with several children in school, that can mean substantial savings. The loss of the school meal means a loss of income.
In countries where schools are closed, WFP is working with governments and partners to identify alternatives to ensure that children and their families continue to receive the food and nutritional support they need during the COVID-19 crisis. This includes providing take-home rations in lieu of the meals, home delivery of food and provision of cash or vouchers.
In countries where schools are still open, the priority is to ensure that hygiene, behaviour and food safety standards are followed, and that social distancing measures are adopted to mitigate the risk of increased infections. WFP is working with partners to improve access to water and sanitation.
Where emergency safety net programmes are being introduced by the governments in response to COVID-19, WFP is advocating that primary schoolchildren are included as part of the vulnerable population these programmes will target.