Rice and lentils donated by the United States arrived to Laos this week, directed to 925 primary schools around the country where the World Food Programme (WFP) supports daily school lunches. U.S. Ambassador to the Lao PDR Dr. Peter M. Haymond received the goods at WFP’s Vientiane warehouse.

The current delivery of 68 containers of rice and 4 containers of lentils (1,290 metric tons in total) will be used to cook school lunches for almost 90,000 primary school children in rural areas of the Lao PDR starting with the next term in September.

For many children, this plate of hot food is the only daily nutritious meal they will receive – a meal that they had to manage without, during the recent seven-week period of school closures, due to the pandemic.

“I am so proud that despite the challenges everyone is facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States is continuing to support daily school lunches for primary school students in the Lao PDR.  School lunches are proven to help students achieve better academic results, and to encourage higher attendance for all students, especially females and underrepresented groups.  The United States stands together with the People and Government of Laos to support the pursuit of this country’s development goals,” said U.S. AmbassadorHaymond.

Since 2008, the U.S. government’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition Programme, which is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), has been supporting the WFP school meals programme in Laos with contributions totaling more than US$60 million.

Since the beginning of the McGovern-Dole support through WFP, more than 1.5 million Lao children have benefited from daily nutritious lunches.

In order to shift to long-term, nationally-run school feeding programmes, WFP has started handing over the supported schools to the government, with about 500 schools already integrated into the national school meals programme to date.

WFP is continuing to provide technical assistance to the government beyond the handover. In addition, WFP has made extra efforts to ensure and widen local supply of food to schools and community ownership. A specific programme, also supported by USDA, has focused on linking school meals to local agricultural production. Currently, all 925 WFP-supported schools receive contributions of vegetables and greens from local farmers and school gardens.

The present shipment of 72 containers will be supplemented by 34 containers containing lentils and vegetable oil, arriving in June. Together, these goods will be sufficient to provide basic ingredients for school lunches in the supported schools between September 2020 and May 2021.

“WFP’s School Meals Programme is a social safety net for many poor and vulnerable families in Laos,” said Jan Delbaere, WFP Country Director and Representative. “We know from our rapid assessment on food security and agriculture that we recently conducted jointly with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), that during the lockdown, poor households have the most acute problems in access to food, as well as households with daily labour as the main source of income. Our worry is that children from such families may never recover from the temporary school closure, since they may now be required to leave school to help their family make ends meet. As schools are gradually reopening, we are attaching utmost importance to safe, hygienic standards and physical distancing measures all throughout our logistics chain up to the delivery of school meals in the villages. At the same time, we are doing our best to ensure families can keep their children in school by guaranteeing a healthy school meal. We are thankful for the commitment of the United States as our long-standing partner in supporting school children and rural families in Laos, especially in these uncertain times,” he said.



Source: Lao News Agency

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