Category Archives: School feeding

Somali Child: I Just Want to Go to School Again

Mindy Mizell of World Vision is traveling through the Horn of Africa to report on the relief efforts for famine and drought victims. Amid so much chaos and horror Mizell finds rays of hope, such as 13-year-old Abdillahi, a Somali refugee living in Dadaab, Kenya. His family was forced to flee Somalia to find food and escape the violence.

Here is a child confronted with war and famine and Mizell said he never uttered a single complaint or talked about how unfortunate he was. Instead, he remained positive and upbeat.

Mizell writes, “I guess I expected him to say that he wanted more food, more water, better clothes or maybe a soccer ball. Instead, Abdillahi told me he wanted to go to school again! Not only did Abdillahi believe he had a bright future, but he spent several minutes advocating on behalf of his Somali friends and telling me that they all needed to go to school in order to find good jobs someday.”


World Vision’s Mindy Mizell interviews Abdillahi, 13, in the Dadaab refugee camp. (World Vision photo)

Young Abdillahi just pointed the way to what can end hunger and build peace in the Horn of Africa: education and food.

In responding to the drought in East Africa, it’s vital to ensure that all children can receive school meals and an education. This is extremely challenging, especially in areas where there are refugees and host communities all with great needs.

Lisa Doherty of UNICEF explains, “In some cases there have been massive influxes of communities and school-aged children into urban areas where there aren’t school facilities to absorb them all.”

UNICEF states that “school feeding, provision of learning materials and teacher incentives and additional learning spaces are the top priorities in order to ensure that children can access learning opportunities, many for the first time.”

Rozanne Chorlton, UNICEF Somalia Representative says, “Education is a critical component of any emergency response. Schools can provide a place for children to come to learn, as well as access health care and other vital services. Providing learning opportunities in safe environments is critical to a child’s survival and development and for the longer term stability and growth of the country.”

This is similar to what the U.S. Army did after World War II. For example, in Vienna, Austria, the U.S. military government helped reopen schools and start a feeding program. They did not want children roaming the streets, and giving them food at school was a top priority with post-war malnutrition rates climbing. The Army and food ambassador Herbert Hoover recognized the such programs were critical and needed to be strengthened and expanded. School feeding provided by the Allies and others after the war was a key defense, as famine threatened to attack many nations at that time.

Today, school meals play an urgent role in providing for refugee children in East Africa. Sandra Bulling of CARE says, “we are currently planning to set up lunch programs for the accelerated learning program of newly arrived refugee children, many of whom have never been to school before.”

Aid agencies are mobilizing to help children through this crisis and open the door to a better life in the future. But will there be enough funding? Fighting hunger and building children’s education is an area of neglect in the foreign policy of many governments. How do you change this?  It’s up to the public to tell their representatives in government that it should be a top priority for all children to receive school meals and an education.

That is what can make a difference in the long term for children in East Africa and elsewhere who just want to go to school again.

See videos from the World Food Programme’s WeFeedback page.


Article first published as Somali Child: I Just Want to Go to School Again on Blogcritics.

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Filed under drought, East Africa, East Africa drought, Kenya, malnutrition, School feeding, Somalia, Uncategorized, UNICEF, World Vision, World War II

Ending Hunger: When You Feed a Child You Feed the Future

U.S. Air Force plane dropping food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1945 (National Archives)

U.S. Air Force plane dropping food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands in 1945 (National Archives)

In May 2010, I published an article about the historical airlift of food into the Nazi-occupied Netherlands at the end of World War II. Truck convoys of food for the hungry followed these missions which continued throughout the liberation.

Think of what the food meant to each individual child: an opportunity — a future. Take, as an example, one young girl living in the Netherlands at that time. Many children of her generation were lost because of the war and the food shortages that came with it. In the case of the Nazi-occupied Netherlands, this became a tragedy known as the hunger winter of 1944-1945.

This girl was one of those suffering from malnutrition as the war was drawing to an end. Fortunately, she and many others would benefit from the food brought in by the Allies. Subsequent to this relief would come aid from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA).

The young girl, upon growing up, said, “A child is a child in any country, whatever the politics… there is no complicated diplomacy, when a child is starving. It’s simple. And we better do something about it. For our sakes too. That is if we want to continue to call ourselves human.”

Her name was Audrey Hepburn. The food made a great difference in her life, an example of the magic that can happen when a child is fed. Hepburn, late in her life, worked as an ambassador for UNICEF. This organization was created in the aftermath of World War II because of the crisis facing so many children. The Marshall Plan is known as the reconstruction of Europe. Well, UNICEF was a Marshall Plan for the rehabilitation of children after the war, and forever changed those war-devastated countries.

There is a whole generation of children today who deserve the same opportunity to find what treasures they possess. Today, the cries of children are coming from East Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Yemen, Haiti, Sudan, Afghanistan, and many other countries. This is why it is so imperative that universal child feeding programs be developed through an international alliance.

The goal would be for each country to have a self -sufficient national school meal and infant feeding program. No single initiative could do more to save lives, prevent disease, and build peace in today’s world.

A whole generation could be fed for a relatively minimal cost. A whole generation could write the history of their country through educational achievement, progress, and development, all because we decided today their bodies and minds should be fed.

Article originally published as When You Feed A Child You Feed the Future at Blogcritics

A message from UNICEF:
UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Audrey Hepburn holds a severely malnourished child at a UNICEF-assisted feeding centre in Baidoa. “For many it’s too late, but for many, many more we can still be on time,” said Ms. Hepburn, after witnessing the impact of famine on Somalia’s children in 1992.Nineteen years later, famine is again spreading, and over a million children urgently require aid.The Horn of Africa’s children need our help. You can join UNICEF’s effort by visiting Horn of Africa Crisis Page.

You can receive more UNICEF photos from the Horn of Africa on your iPhone by visiting: http://www.unicef.org/phot​​​​ography


(photos courtesy of UNICEF)

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Filed under Afghanistan, drought, East Africa, History, School feeding, UNICEF, World War II

School Meals Lifeline At Risk in Drought-Ravaged Kenya

The World Food Programme works with the Kenyan government to provide school meals for children. A massive drought has caused food shortages making children vulnerable to dangerous malnutrition. (file photo provided by WFP/Francesco Broli)

Schools are just days away from opening here in the United States. In newspapers and on local access channels, you might soon start to see school lunch menus appear. It’s a very important, albeit seemingly routine, part of the school year.

But a world away in Kenya right now, that school lunch is literally a lifeline for families trapped in the massive drought that has hit East Africa.

Many families are unable to support themselves, following the loss of crops and livestock. Imagine losing your livelihood, and your sources of food start to dwindle. Where do you turn for help?

In Kenya the UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides school meals for children. This is a vital safety net that families are counting on; but this source is under severe strain.

Charles Njeru of the World Food Programme in Kenya told me Monday: “The situation has drastically changed since the last time we communicated…. Our school feeding programme has been severely affected by the drought. We have seen an increased influx into schools, especially as more children are attracted to school by the food.”

WFP is currently feeding 678,000 children under its Kenya school feeding mission. Even though schools are closed in August, they have kept the meals program running because of the urgency of the crisis. But the need is more widespread, and WFP wants to scale up its school meal response in Kenya.

Njeru says: “WFP requires funding to provide meals for approximately 200,0000 additional children in arid areas of the country affected by the drought. This figure is likely to continue rising as the drought intensifies through the months of August and September which are traditionally the driest months of the year.” This additional funding would total $6 million for 12 months of feeding.

The children are in some of the areas hardest hit by the drought, including Turkana, Moyale, Marsabit, Wajir, Garissa, and Mandera districts.

Throughout East Africa, WFP needs to expand its school meal reach and sustain it over an extended period. Now is the time to act to keep an already tragic situation from becoming much worse.

You can donate to the East Africa Relief Fund at the World Food Programme.

Article first published as School Meals Lifeline At Risk in Drought-Ravaged Kenya on Blogcritics.

For background on school feeding in Kenya see:

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Filed under East Africa drought, Kenya, School feeding, Uncategorized, World Food Programme