Brightly coloured school uniforms are reappearing on the streets of Haiti as more and more children return to class after the January earthquake. For many of the kids, school is not just a place to learn but also the source of a precious, nutritious meal.
by Gabriela Flores in Cap Haitien
and Elizabeth Jennings in Jacmel
PORT-AU-PRINCE – In Jacmel, a port city just south of where the earthquake struck last January, a school building stands empty and broken. Less than 100 meters away, however, under multi-coloured tarps, thatched roofing and an assortment of drapes, lessons carry on.
Young children, mostly from Jacmel but also displaced from Port-au-Prince, are eating their only meal of the day. Despite their ordeal, they are lively and eager to learn – and one reason is that their stomachs are full.
“Achieving small things”
“The children come, they stay and they achieve small things here every day. They understand that they have a right to hope,” says the school’s principal, Pastor Abraham.
He explains that after the quake many families pulled their children out of school. The promise of regular meals has not only brought them back, but given many a new lease on life.
Myrta Kaulard, WFP’s Country Director in Haiti, stressed that “children need to learn and it is very difficult to concentrate on an empty stomach”. WFP has been working closely with Haitian officials and local partners to reach some 800,000 school children in areas hit hardest by the earthquake.
Easing the strain
In the north of Haiti, school meals are helping to ease the strain on local resources caused by the exodus of families from the quake-battered south. Miriam Dai, a teacher in Cap Haitien, said that her classroom is overflowing with students and everyone has enough to eat.
“The food never fails. With WFP’s help, we’re able to ensure that there’s enough for every child, every day”.
The rice, beans and fortified porridge these kids are eating packs a nutritious punch with all the vitamins and nutrients their growing bodies need. Find out about other ways school meals are helping children around the world.