Difficult economic conditions triggered by high fuel prices have prompted the Jordanian authorities to extend their US$5 million school nutrition programme to include Palestinian refugees in schools run by the UN Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA).
The academic year, which starts on 17 August, will see about 70,000 students from 13 refugee camps benefit from the initiative, which provides students with a daily mid-morning snack containing essential vitamins that most of the children lack.
The scheme aims to put Palestinian refugee students on an equal footing with their Jordanian counterparts in publicly-funded schools.
The school nutrition programme, which has been running in Jordanian public schools since late 1999, provides each child with a mid-morning snack consisting of a 200-millilitre carton of UHT milk, 70 grammes of high protein biscuits fortified with vitamins A, D and iron, and a piece of fruit every day.
The snack provides children with the needed daily nutritional intake and is often the only meal many of these impoverished children have during the day.
Officials from UNRWA said the move would definitely help students in the impoverished camp at a time when the country is reeling under unprecedented increases in the cost of living.
Over 170 schools to benefit
According to UNRWA spokesman Matar Saqer, the inclusion of refugee students in the nutrition programme will improve the education process in the kingdom's 176 UNRWA schools.
"This initiative will help our students to study in better conditions and make them more receptive and diligent," particularly since many students come from poor families which are unable to cater for the needs of their children.
|This initiative will help our students to study in better conditions and make them more receptive and diligent.|
"This will help create an environment which is more conducive to the teaching and learning process," said Saqer, who also said poverty rates in refugee camps were much higher than in other parts of the country.
There are no official figures on the rate of poverty in refugee camps, but activists believe it is above 25 percent and unemployment is also as high.
Jordan is home to nearly 1.7 million Palestinian refugees. Most arrived after the 1948 war between the Arab armies and Israel after being forced out of their homes, and were naturalised as Jordanian citizens. However, they remain registered as refugees and many receive aid from UNRWA, which was founded after the war to provide needy Palestinians with urgent aid.
UNRWA provides humanitarian assistance to at least 50,000 Palestinian refugees in Jordan - living either in 13 refugee camps or in towns and villages - as part of the so called "special hardship cases" programme.
Beneficiaries receive food items such as flour, rice, sugar, milk, cooking oil and rice, and cash handouts of about US$136 per person annually.
The national aid programme was established after national surveys revealed serious health deficiencies, particularly vitamins A and D, and iron deficiencies, among needy schoolchildren.
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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