25 February 2009

Congo-Brazzaville: Free Lunch Tempts Children Into School

Brazzaville — The promise of a free meal at lunchtime has over the past few years seen up to 39,000 children going to school in the Republic of Congo, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

"Between 2002 and 2009 we've been feeding up to 39,000 children at 1,072 primary schools in the Congo, which has helped them to keep studying," Central Africa regional WFP assistant director Sory Ouane said.

"With the help of the Congo [government] we will significantly increase this number in the future," added Ouane, without detailing how this would be done.

In the 1980s, the Republic of Congo enjoyed one of the highest levels of school attendance on the continent, with almost all children receiving primary education.

According to a 2005 UN study, some 50 percent of schools in the southern Pool region were destroyed between 1998 and 2003 as ethnic and political tensions, coupled with a struggle for offshore oil wealth, sent the country into civil war.

This conflict not only damaged and destroyed schools and equipment but caused mass displacement of both staff and students.

"The food situation has improved since farming got back under way, reducing the number of those affected by hunger," said Ouane.

UN figures from 2002 suggest that about 32 percent of Congolese did not have enough to eat when the programme was established.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

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