Antananarivo — Support from the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) for orphans and vulnerable children in Madagascar's poorest and most food insecure areas may be reduced in the next school year due to lack of funding.
With the support of existing donors, mainly France, WFP is providing assistance to 33,000 vulnerable children until the end of the ongoing school year. However, without funding, WFP will not be able to continue the programme for the 2014/2015 school year.
"It is important to encourage access to education, especially in the current context of socio- economic vulnerability. Parents have difficulty to look after their children. WFP assistance not only promotes access to education but also helps assisted children improve their academic performance and alleviate households' expenditures. For the most vulnerable children, WFP ration is sometimes the only meal of the day," Sister Mary Jeannette from the Social Centre St Vincent de Paul says.
WFP, together with around 10 NGOs, currently assists 33,000 vulnerable children in hundreds of centres in Antananarivo, Toamasina, Toliara and in the south-eastern Madagascar, where children receive care and support in a secure environment.
WFP assistance to orphans and vulnerable children aims to encourage access to education for the poorest, neglected or abused children who have left the formal education system or are at risk of dropping out. It consists of a daily hot meal made of rice, pulses and oil and nutritious products such as Super Cereal, a micronutrient-fortified corn-soy blend. The support helps reduce disparities in access to education.
To ensure access to education for 33,000 vulnerable children for the school year 2014 /2015, WFP is appealing for some US$1.9 million (around 4.3 billion ariary) to buy the 2,400 metric tons of food needed.
Household vulnerability has been worsening over the past five years due to the combined effects of the political crisis - mainly loss of employments and limited access to basic social services- and natural disasters. Large families who survive with less than 2000 Malagasy Ariary (nearly US$2) per day are the most affected. Parents are forced to withdraw their children from schooling due to poverty.
While enrollment rate in primary education in Madagascar dropped from 73 percent in 2010 to 69 percent in 2012, interventions that promote access to education as school meals can help reverse this trend.