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Attacks hit WFP school feeding programme in south

Students attending an open class in Kabul in 2007. Hundreds of schools have been shut owing to attacks on education mostly in southern provinces, according to the ministry of education.
(Ahmad Zia Entezar/IRIN)

//CORRECTED//The UN World Food Programme’s (WFP’s) food-for-education programme has been adversely affected by recent attacks on aid convoys: Some 300,000 primary school children, mostly in southern provinces, have not received vegetable oil and fortified biscuits over the past four months.

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"We have not distributed vegetable oil and fortified biscuits to some 300,000 students in southern provinces," Ebadullah Ebadi, a WFP public information officer, told IRIN in Kabul on 29 July, adding that insecurity and repeated attacks on aid convoys were the main cause of the delay.

The aim of the food-for-education programme is to promote education and ensure children's - particularly girls' - access to formal schooling.

WFP has been distributing 4.5kg of cooking oil to 450,000 girls every month; and a snack of fortified biscuits to about 1.5 million schoolchildren in food-insecure areas every day.

The education department in Ghor Province, central Afghanistan, said that of the 150,000 students in the province 93,000 were entitled to benefit from take-home wheat rations and a smaller number of girls were also entitled to cooking oil which had not been delivered since March 2008, the beginning of the academic year.


Photo: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN
High food prices have hit hard millions of already vulnerable Afghans, aid agencies said

Eid Gul Azem, deputy head of the education department, said delays in the school feeding programme and high food prices had adversely affected school attendance.

"Recently about five percent of schoolchildren have failed to turn up regularly," said Azem, adding that most of the absent children were from "very poor families" and had been forced to work to help feed their families.

"Previously my children were bringing wheat and oil home but this year there is nothing… Food prices are very high and we are very poor, so my children are working to earn a piece of bread for us instead of going to school," said Bibi Gul, 55, a mother of three in Chaghcharan, Ghor's provincial capital.

Denial

WFP denied that it had not delivered any food as part of its school feeding programme to Ghor Province since March 2008.

WFP's Western Region head Sven Thelin said 620 metric tonnes (mt) of fortified biscuits had been dispatched and distributed to 80,000 schoolchildren in GhorProvince between April and June, and efforts were under way to deliver wheat and cooking oil.

Thelin said a Take Home Ration (wheat) project had been approved by Kabul and would cover over 93,000 students in nine districts of the province, and that 4,680 mt of wheat would be dispatched to the nine districts once the paperwork had been finalised.

Thelin also said the reason for cooking oil not being distributed under its Oil Incentive for Girls scheme was due to a shortage of readily available supplies of cooking oil and not because of security reasons.

Schools closed in south


Meanwhile, hundreds of schools, mostly in volatile southern provinces, have been closed down due to attacks, thus depriving tens of thousands of schoolchildren of both education and food rations.

The need for school feeding programmes has soared in the past few months as food price inflation and severe drought have pushed millions into high-risk food insecurity, say officials and aid workers.


Photo: Masoud Popalzai/IRIN
An armed guard travels with a WFP food consignment

WFP has requested funding to feed 4.5 million highly food-insecure people, in addition to its current programme.

Food aid convoy attacked

On 24 July unidentified armed men attacked a convoy of 49 trucks in Balabolok District, Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan. The trucks had been hired by WFP to transport food aid from Kandahar to Herat.

The attackers set two trucks ablaze and stole eight others, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said. Over 320 metric tonnes of food, enough to feed about 38,400 people for a month, was looted.

"We have a message for those responsible - shame on you. Such attacks dishonour the Afghan people and the generosity of the international community, they are unacceptable and must stop," said Aleem Siddique, a UNAMA spokesman.

WFP said such security challenges would not deter it from continuing humanitarian food deliveries.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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