Afghanistan: Attacks hit WFP school feeding programme in south
CHAGHCHARAN, 30 July 2008 (IRIN) – 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.
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 80,000 were entitled to benefit from the school feeding programme, but no aid had been delivered since March 2008, the beginning of the academic year.
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.
Schools closed in south
“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.
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.
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.