Tag Archives: education

Norway’s prime minister says girls’ education can achieve development goals

Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg, met this week with Ertharin Cousin, the director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). They discussed the urgent crisis of children, particularly girls, missing out on their education because of conflict.

Read the full article at Examiner.

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Online Game Educates About World Hunger and Donates Rice

When you answer questions correctly while playing FreeRice a bowl fills up with rice, which will be sent to hungry people around the world. (photo from author’s collection)

This week the award-winning online game FreeRice added a new subject: world hunger. Players can now answer questions about hunger and malnutrition while helping collect donations of rice.

When you play FreeRice you answer questions in a variety of subjects including vocabulary, math, science and art. There is even an SAT preparation section. For each correct answer ten grains of rice are donated to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), paid for by advertisers on the site.

WFP is the world’s largest food aid organization and relies on donations to fight hunger in many countries around the globe.

Dr. Al Forsyth, who wrote most of the questions for the world hunger subject, says: “It’s always fun to see how smart you are, to show off your knowledge playing Freerice while contributing to a most worthy cause. But if the subject is really important, as world hunger surely is, how much better to also learn from playing the game. Playing “World Hunger” will help you understand why it is so important to fill that bowl with rice!”

With the school year starting up, teachers around the country have an extremely valuable tool to use in Freerice. Students can learn while tackling the toughest crisis facing the globe. Schools can even compete to see who answers the most questions correctly and donates the most rice.

I had the chance to write some of the questions for the world hunger subject, mainly about the history. If you read my article in the Des Moines Register titled Humanitarian Heroes, Both Large and Invisible and also my piece on the Russian Famine of 1921, you will be prepared for some of those questions. You can continue a great humanitarian tradition of fighting hunger by playing FreeRice.

You can start playing the World Hunger subject at Freerice.com.

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Norwegian Charity Says More Aid Needed for Somali Refugee Children

Displaced children in Somaliland are deprived of basic rights such as access to clean water, food, health services and education. Photo: NRC/Astrid Sehl

The Norwegian Refugee Council is calling on the world to increase aid for Somali children displaced by conflict and famine.

Last summer the world was stunned with tens of thousands of Somali children starving to death. A severe drought had struck Somalia and East Africa, causing massive food shortages. Conflict within Somalia made the situation far worse by preventing aid from reaching the needy.

Thousands of children and their families were able to flee the worst hunger and conflict areas. Many of these “children of famine” found refuge in camps in Dadaab, Kenya.

A year later their plight in the refugee camps is largely silent to the world. The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) wants to change this by focusing on these children’s needs. They have a chance to recover if the world gives them enough help.

Somali refugees need the basics of food, water, shelter. They also need education to learn and develop the skills needed to get out of these camps and build a life. NRC issued a report in May about the lack of educational resources at the Dadaab camps.

Dadaab does not have enough school facilities and teachers. There are 221,000 school age children in the refugee camps but only 57,000 are enrolled in school. Funding is needed to build up the schools.

The NRC Regional Director Hassan Khaire says, “The universal right to education applies also for refugee children in Dadaab, but only in theory. The international community has to step up and demonstrate the importance of investing in the development and future of young Somali refugees.”

NRC is partnering with other organizations on developing accelerated learning programs to help children “catch up” and get their education back on track.

For those who are already enrolled in school at Dadaab, there is the problem of staying the course. The NRC report says, “The number of students who actually complete school is much lower, as the drop out rates are very high especially for girls.” The challenge is getting kids into school in East Africa and then keeping them there to finish their education.

School feeding programs run by the UN World Food Programme and other groups are vital especially with malnutrition being such a threat to the refugees.

Astrid Sehl, an NRC officer, recently took some time to answer a few questions on how the world can help the children of the East Africa famine.

What is being done to increase the number of schools and teachers in the Daddab refugee camp?

UN and non-governmental organizations are doing what they can to build more schools and educate more teachers in Dadaab – e.g. the joint Education strategy (Accelerated learning program). However, as always, funding when it comes to crises and education, is very limited, and a lot more should be done!

Could take home rations be added to any existing school feeding in order to reduce the dropout rate?

Yes, take home rations is a good idea. For the time being, we provide school feeding and we are investigating funding opportunities for take-home rations (or introducing school gardens, where the kids are taught how to grow vegetables and they can bring the knowledge and produce home).

For children displaced inside Somalia has NRC been able to reach them with educational materials?

Yes, we have large educational programs for internally displaced persons across Somalia – in Somaliland, Puntland and South Central. So we’re supporting thousands of internally displaced children and youth with education, skills training, we train teachers and build schools – but again – more efforts are required to meet children’s right to education.

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Haiti: Drought, Low Funding Threaten School Meals Program

Children in class after eating their school meal at École Nationale République de la Colombie in Port-au-Prince.
Photo credit: WFP/Stephanie Tremblay

It’s been over two years since the earthquake struck Haiti. Now, with a massive hunger crisis unfolding on multiple fronts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, the spotlight has shifted away from this country with tremendous reconstruction needs.

Developing a national school feeding program is a top priority, but the danger is funding may drop off, thus breaking the momentum toward achieving this goal. A grant from the U.S. McGovern-Dole school meals program has been significant in helping Haiti. But additional funding is needed to ensure every child in Haiti receives school meals and an education.

With drought conditions hitting parts of Haiti, school feeding takes on more urgency. Families who struggle to access or afford food need the safety net of school feeding.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is helping Haiti provide school meals. Elizabeth Jennings, a public information officer for Haiti, provides us an update in the following interview.

How many children are currently receiving the school meals from WFP?

1.1 million primary age school children.

Are areas harmed by drought included in WFP’s school feeding?

WFP’s school feeding programme in Haiti is currently countrywide, supporting over 3000 schools. So, yes, we reach areas that have been and may potentially be again harmed by drought (where you often see chronic food insecurity), as well as areas that were directly and indirectly affected by the earthquake and areas that have been affected by flooding, among others. We are also in the process of re-targeting all of our activities after the emergency response, including school feeding, and are focusing on the most food-insecure areas in the country, which would also correspond to areas that are vulnerable to droughts, such as the Nord-Ouest.

How has funding from the McGovern-Dole school meals program helped WFP and Haiti?

The 3-year grant of $24 million dollars from McGovern-Dole has been vital to the program. The donation is made in in-kind commodities of WFP’s standard school meal ration (rice, beans, oil, salt), and has provided reliable, consistent support, starting in 2011 (the first year we received the commodities), and will provide commodities through the 2013-2014 school year (the last year of this grant).

We just received the second tranche of commodities which are currently the only resources we have to begin the program at the start of the 2012-2013 school year in September 2012, under the School Feeding Development Project.

There is also a small annual allocation, as part of the grant, for capacity building to the government of Haiti’s national school meals program, which is a critical priority for our work in Haiti. It is also one of WFP’s global strategic objectives. Monitoring & Evaluation, which will be a crucial part of the development of a nationally owned and managed school feeding program, also falls under this objective, alongside building local procurement capacity, with school feeding as a platform to improve local production and increase food security.

What are the biggest challenges currently facing WFP in providing school meals and helping Haiti build a national meals program? Is funding an issue?

Yes, funding is an issue. As is developing consistent, long-term funding so that the national program is able to maintain momentum for growth.

Fragile national capacity and weak implementation capacity is also, as you suspect, an issue. There is a vision for a universal, free school meals program by 2030. Attaining that goal means significant efforts in developing a strong legal and policy framework, strong leadership within the PNCS, support from the Ministry of Education, wherein PNCS resides, and a consistent source of funding for the program that supports the achievement of longer-term goals. WFP provides both technical and implementation support for the school feeding program, as well as prioritizing growing its local procurement activities in the country, linked closely with the school feeding program (as mentioned in point 3).

There are also other school feeding partners and donors in Haiti and though WFP has the largest program, these other parallel school feeding programs (and pipelines) can occasionally make coordination among actors somewhat tenuous, though not impossible.

Are children to receive summer feeding when schools are closed?

WFP is unfortunately not able to provide food for summer camps (camps d’été) this year due to limited funding and resources, though traditionally we have incorporated summer camps into our overall school feeding program.

For more information about Haiti visit the World Food Programme.

Article first published as Haiti: Drought, Low Funding Threaten School Meals Program on Blogcritics.

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On Digital Learning Day, think FreeRice

FreeRice has two goals: Provide education to everyone for free. Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.

This Wednesday, February 1, is the first ever National Digital Learning Day. It’s a chance to showcase the innovation taking place in classrooms through internet technology and digital media.

One online tool helps students learn and also feeds the hungry worldwide. It is called FreeRice and it’s an online trivia game in which you answer questions on vocabulary, math, chemistry, foreign languages, and even art.

While a student is playing and learning about these subjects, something else magical is happening. For every correct answer, 10 grains of rice, paid for by advertisers, are donated to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), the largest agency fighting hunger. The donations are used in WFP operations fighting hunger and malnutrition.

Last year, for instance, students who played this game helped support school feeding programs in Haiti and Cambodia. The more students play the game, the more support for hunger relief.

Innovative online learning can play a role in tackling the most massive crisis facing man. There are nearly one billion people worldwide who suffer from hunger. A severe drought struck East Africa last year causing food shortages and wide-scale displacement as people desperately searched for help. This crisis is far from over.

Another one is fast emerging in West Africa, in the Sahel region, where the countries of Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, and Mali are being devastated by drought which has ruined food supplies. Afghanistan, Yemen, Haiti, and so many other countries are suffering deeply from hunger and malnutrition.

The World Food Programme relies on voluntary donations to help these countries fight hunger. This agency is so low on funding that many of their relief operations face suspensions or reduced rations. Right now, children in Mauritania are about to lose their school meal of rice at a time when they need it more than ever. The same holds true in the Ivory Coast, where rice and other supplies are running out for children in a country recovering from an internal conflict last year.

FreeRice is a digital tool that can help these hungry children while helping other children learn. The game’s mission statement is to “Provide education to everyone for free” and “Help end world hunger by providing rice to hungry people for free.” The game is even great for adults who want to test their knowledge on these subjects.

So on this Digital Learning Day I hope many students and teachers will join the already one million players of FreeRice. You can form teams on FreeRice too, so perhaps schools can develop tournaments between classes and even other schools just as they do with football, basketball, debating, and other activities. The sky is the limit for this online learning tool and what it can accomplish.

You can start playing at Freerice.com.

Article first published as On Digital Learning Day, Think FreeRice on Blogcritics.

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The Investment We Need to Make in Afghanistan

WFP's Food for Training Program in Afghanistan provides rations for street children at Aschiana Foundation Centers. Funding is needed by WFP and Aschiana to ensure these programs can be maintained and expanded to reach impoverished children. (photo courtesy WFP/Assadullah Azhari)

In my article Food and Hope for Street Children in Afghanistan, I talked about a promising collaboration between the UN World Food Programme and the Aschiana Foundation; the idea being food for Afghan children can give them an opportunity to get the education and the training they need to have a future. It’s the one chance Afghanistan has.

The World Food Programme (WFP) has provided photos of this initiative. It’s a life changer for street children, who live in poverty and are forced to beg just to get basics. With rations provided to them by WFP, they can concentrate on tutoring and training provided at Aschiana Foundation Centers.  It’s a safety net for the street children and their families.

Many an ill of a society can be fixed if children get the right nutrition and education. It’s vital we remember this now, when many people want to turn away from Afghanistan.

A massive drought has struck parts of Afghanistan this year. Food shortages exist in many provinces. Food prices are high. Malnutrition is likely to get worse. The UN World Food Programme is facing a huge funding shortage despite the recent 40 million dollar donation by USAID. The international community needs to come together and invest in fighting hunger in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan drought crisis comes at the exact time Congress is proposing reducing international food aid, one of the most inexpensive foreign policy initiatives. Reducing Food for Peace and other hunger fighting programs will harm Afghanistan and other countries where development and peace are on the line.

Support for the World Food Programme, Aschiana Foundation, Save the Children, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, Oxfam and others is vital at this stage. There should be no withdrawal of humanitarian aid from Afghanistan.

Article first published as The Investment We Need to Make in Afghanistan on Blogcritics.

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