VIENTIANE– Officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Lao PDR Ministry of Education and Sports have concluded a visit to schools supported by the McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, through the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).
The representatives visited five WFP-supported schools in Oudomxay province, northern Laos. Oudomxay has some of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the country, with more than 50 percent of children under the age of five suffering from malnutrition.
“The continued support from the US Government to the school meals programme in Laos through the McGovern-Dole Food for Education Program reflects the strong commitment of the United States to invest in children’s futures,” said Sarah Gordon-Gibson, WFP Country Director in Lao PDR.
“Providing nutritious meals to children in Laos remains a priority for the US Department of Agriculture. A well-fed child who grows strong and develops according to his/her age has better chances of graduating from school, and of having a better future,” said Michelle Calhoun, Assistant Deputy Administrator of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.
The US Government has been supporting WFP school meals in Laos through the USDA since 2008, with a contribution of US$47 million that will provide for mid-morning snacks and lunches for 150,000 children in 1,500 schools until 2017. WFP is working with the Government of Lao PDR on a strategy for national ownership of the school meals programmes over the coming years.
“The McGovern-Dole program enables WFP to continue the provision of nutritious meals to school children in 2016, expanding the project to set up vegetable gardens in schools, develop water schemes and build the capacity of government counterparts and communities to ensure the quality, ownership, and sustainability of the activities,” added Gordon-Gibson.
WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build
resilience. In 2013, WFP assisted more than 80 million people in 75 countries. WFP has worked in Lao PDR since 1975, with projects aimed at improving the food security and nutritional status of the most vulnerable.
The McGovern-Dole Program Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program was established in 2002 under USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The program aims to reduce hunger and improve literacy and primary education. It currently supports WFP school meals activities in 10 countries, including Laos.