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WFP to shut down by 2010

Primary school child in Praia, Cape Verde
Primary school child in Praia, Cape Verde (Phuong Tran/IRIN)

After 30 years supporting national school feeding in Cape Verde, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is handing the programme over to the government, saying the country is ready to fully finance it by 2010.

The head of Cape Verde’s UN team who represents all UN agencies working in Cape Verde, Petra Lantz, told IRIN that WFP’s decision to pull out was based on overall gains the country has made. “WFP uses two primary indicators to determine whether it should have a country presence, namely the degree of stunting among children under five and GNP [income] per capita.

"Cape Verde’s 'graduation' from WFP assistance in 2010 is thus a result of the country’s positive development indicators over a long period.”

Employed Cape Verdeans earn on average more than twice the income cap of US$1,100/year for countries where WFP works. Based on its growing average income per resident, Cape Verde shed its UN least-developed country status in 2007.

The government has been on track to take over the lunch programme, but the world financial crisis has presented new and unexpected challenges, said Felisberto Moreira, president of the governmental Cape Verdean Institute of School Social Services. “Right now we are completely engaged, but you never know, with the international economic crisis. The government will continue to make all the necessary efforts to provide the same services.”


The UN’s Lantz said Cape Verde’s reliance on money from overseas makes it more vulnerable to external financial shocks.

The most recent government census showed more Cape Verdeans living overseas than the fewer than half million who live on the islands. Remittances from overseas relatives constituted 12 percent of the national budget in 2007, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the African Development Bank.

Cape Verde faces a recession with the economy expected to grow by 0.5 percent in 2009 compared to an estimated tourism-fueled seven-percent growth in 2008, according to the Ministry of Finance.

Despite the gloomy economic outlook, national school social services director Moreira said the government is working to ensure a smooth handover for school feeding. He said the government has set aside $1.7 million to pay almost all costs in 2009.

Take two

As of 2008, the programme served 100,000 primary and some pre-school students, according to the UN.

WFP decreased support for school lunches in Cape Verde in 1995, but resumed full funding seven years later after it noted a drop in school enrolment after the government took over, said UN's Lantz.

Primary school teacher Maria Jose Cabral who has taught for 23 years told IRIN her students are not regularly fed at home. “Some of them come in the morning with nothing but coffee in their stomachs. Without lunches, students may still attend, but they would not be able to concentrate.”

At the New President primary school where she teaches in the capital Praia, more than 200 students get daily meals, mostly soup and rice. “I hope the government gets it right this time,” said Cabral. “Mobilise private businesses, do whatever is necessary because this school, this entire country, cannot grow its own food magically.”

Less than ten percent of the once-volcanic archipelago is cultivable, according to the Ministry of Agriculture; most all of the islands’ food is imported

About one out of every 10 people — slightly more in rural areas — is severely malnourished and has less than 65 US cents a day to buy food, according to a recent government study conducted with the Food and Agricultural Organization; the report used 2002 data.

The school-feeding programme covers lunches for students up to age 12. Teacher Cabral told IRIN many youths do not continue school after that age. “They tend to drop out and wash cars.”

The drop-out rate for youths 12 and older is almost twice as high as the overall school-abandonment rate of 11 percent in 2007, according to the government.


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:

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