April 30, 2012
VIENTIANE – A delegation of representatives from the United States Embassy in Lao PDR, the Ministry of Education and Sports, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), has completed a three-day visit to Saravane Province where they observed activities under WFP’s School Meals programme.
The visit followed a generous US$10 million contribution by the United States to WFP’s School Meals programme, which provides daily nutritious snacks to 150,000 schoolchildren in six provinces in Lao PDR.
“School meals have been shown to be an effective way to encourage parents to send their children – especially girls – to school,” said WFP Representative and Country Director to Lao PDR Eri Kudo. “Education is vital to break the cycle of under-nutrition: educated children grow in to adults who produce and earn more, and are more likely to be able to provide enough of the right food to their own children.”
During the three-day trip, U.S. Ambassador, H.E. Karen B. Stewart, Vice Minister of Education and Sports, H.E. Lytou Bouapao, and WFP’s Eri Kudo, visited the villages of Ban Nabone in Laongam District and Ban Na in Toumlan District to take part in the preparation and the distribution of food to schoolchildren and see for themselves the positive impact of the programme.
The visit was part of the joint effort by the U.S. Embassy and WFP to raise awareness of malnutrition in Lao PDR. Malnutrition is the single biggest contributing factor to infant mortality in the country and can cause long-term damage to brains and bodies from childhood. WFP and the U.S. Embassy are committed to working with other development partners to identify and develop effective solutions to address malnutrition.
In recent years, WFP’s School Meals programme has proved an effective tool to improve both education al achievement and nutrition among Lao children. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition grant, is the programme’s largest donor.
“On behalf of the American people, I am very pleased that this support is helping thousands of Lao children receive the nutrition they need to pursue their studies and reach their full potential,” said Ambassador Stewart.
The US$10 million contribution was delivered in the form of 1,600 metric tons of rice, 556 metric tons of vitamin and mineral fortified Supercereal, and 110 metric tons of vegetable oil. The oil and Supercereal are used by village cooks to prepare mid-morning snacks, keeping hunger at bay among the schoolchildren. The rice is given as a take-home ration to students who live far from school, as anincentive for their families to ensure their continued attendance.
A US$1 million tranche of the U.S. grant will be used to provide training and support to the Lao Ministry of Education and Sports as part of the transition towards a National School Meals Programme.