The World Food Programme (WFP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is delivering food to 30,000 vulnerable and poor households in five provinces.
In a press release on August 31, WFP said it was working with the ministry to distribute the assistance to about 150,000 people in Siem Reap, Oddar Meanchey, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang and Pursat provinces.
The programme runs from August 30 to September 3 with food being delivered every day. The assistance is given to households identified by authorities as vulnerable with IDPoor cards and children enrolled in schools sponsored by WFP and the ministry, it said.
Education minister Hang Chuon Naron said proper nutrition in schools can improve students’ concentration and student learning outcomes. He added that for 20 years, the WFP’s school meal programme has distributed food to children in primary schools in some of Cambodia’s poorest areas.
“It also eases the economic burden of students’ families. This is why we registered in this alliance to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that no children are left behind,” he said.
Prior to Covid-19, WFP provided healthy and nutritious food to 223,000 children in 908 target schools in five provinces, the minister said.
He added that since the Covid-19 outbreak and school closures, students have not had healthy breakfast. This has particularly affected children from the poorest families, many of whom have suffered from loss of income and unemployment.
WFP country director Claire Conan said WFP recognises that good nutrition is essential for a child’s proper development. This is why the team ensures that these food packages reach vulnerable families and children have access to good food during the pandemic.
She said many families have been severely affected economically and this food aid is designed to supplement other social assistance programmes provided by the government.
“We would like to thank all the partners for their support, especially the education ministry and the National Social Protection Council,” she said.
According to WFP, this is the fifth round of food distribution. It comes as the government reaffirms its commitment to implement the school meal programme, which runs as part of the Global Food System Summit in September 2021.
The alliance is made up of governments, the UN, civil society, educational institutions, humanitarian organisations and the private sector, which recognise that school meals are vital and can help individual countries recover from the socio- economic impacts of Covid-19 and achieve the goal of sustainable development.
Cambodia was one of the first 40 countries to sign up to this historic alliance, which could help protect the most vulnerable children from starvation and malnutrition.
Food distribution was carried out through a network of schools with the support of the provincial education departments, school administrations, local authorities and partner NGOs, noted the press release.
The diet includes 25kg of rice, canned fish and cooking oil. In addition, WFP is working closely with the education ministry and other partners to improve school infrastructure as a precautionary measure for the safe return to school, it said.
WFP said the school meal programme in Cambodia and this special food aid can be carried out with the support of the governments of Cambodia and Japan as well as the Korea International Cooperation Agency and the US Department of Agriculture.