A signing ceremony was conducted on Thursday in which Japan pledged a $3.18 million grant to the Cambodian government to assist in the implementation of a meal programme for vulnerable children in schools and poor communities.
To be rolled out in collaboration with the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP), the project will run until next year and provide meals for 217,900 children to promote food security and education.
The signing ceremony took place on Thursday morning at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport and was witnessed by its minister Hang Chuon Naron, Japanese Ambassador to Cambodia Mikami Masahiro and the WFP’s Cambodia country director Francesca Erdelman.
Following the ceremony, Chuon Naron told reporters that the $3.18 million grant would go towards purchasing canned fish from Japan, which will be prepared for breakfast for students at certain targeted schools.
The Cambodian government has also contributed 2,000 tonnes of milled rice to the project.
The children will receive a cooked breakfast consisting of rice, canned fish, oil, salt and vegetables, providing 550 calories.
“This year, the ministry will implement half of the project on its own in six provinces where 50,000 children receive breakfast from the government,” he said.
The provinces in question are Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom.
Meantime, the WFP, through the assistance provided by Japan, will provide meals for five targeted schools in Siem Reap, Kampong Thom, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Oddar Meanchey provinces, he said.
“Since 2011, Japan has provided a budget of nearly $17 million to implement the school meals programme. The provision of meals enables children in destitute and remote areas to go to school.
“Without the provision of such meals, some children would not have wanted or been able to attend school. When there is enough food, the number of students grows,” Chuon Naron said.
At Thursday’s ceremony, ambassador Masahiro said the Japanese government would provide a total of 350 million yen ($3.2 million) to buy some 415 million tonnes of canned fish to supply to school children.
“The Cambodian economy has significantly grown in recent years and the poverty rate dropped considerably. But in remote areas, a large portion of people still suffer from malnutrition because they don’t have enough food,” he said.
The provision of canned fish, he said, not only contributed to the promotion of children’s health but also enabled them to receive an education.
Erdelman said her organisation would play a central role in implementing the project.
“I am so excited that as a result of the intense preparatory work by our joint teams, the Cambodian government will soon start the direct management of the meals programme in several carefully selected locations.
“At the WFP, we will support in this transition through technical assistance and backstopping. We will, of course, continue to deliver school meals until the government is fully ready to absorb all the programme schools and possibly even expand it beyond them,” she said.