Nearly half of those starved by the global food crisis are children

“A generation is in danger,” warned the World Food Program (WFP), the Education Commission chaired by Gordon Brown, former British Prime Minister and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education as well as the African Union Development Agency (NEPAD) and other organizations working in the field of education.

According to the WFP, the level of hunger among the 250 million out-of-school children is almost certainly higher than among those who are in school.

“Millions of children are living with the consequences of mutually reinforcing food and education crises,” said Carmen Burbano, Director of WFP’s School Programs Division.

UNDP Yemen

Yemenis living in rural areas of the country suffer from hunger.

153 million children affected by the food crisis

According to the UN and the African Union (AU), the global food crisis threatens the future of millions of school-age children who have only just returned to school after the Covid-19 pandemic. New evidence points to unprecedented learning losses during the pandemic, which are likely to be further exacerbated by the current food crisis.

A generation is in danger

The world Bank estimates that the proportion of 10-year-olds who cannot read or write in the poorest developing countries has risen from 53% to 75%.

“As all parents and teachers know, hunger is one of the greatest obstacles to effective learning – and the surge in hunger among school-aged children today poses a real and present danger to recovery. of learning,” said Gordon Brown.

According to the WFP, the global food crisis has plunged an additional 23 million young people under the age of 18 into acute food insecurity since the start of the year. This brings the total number of children affected to 153 million.

This represents nearly half of the 345 million people facing acute hunger, according to WFP data from 82 countries.

Students receive meals at their school in northern Uganda.

UNICEF/Francis Emorut

Students receive meals at their school in northern Uganda.

70 countries supported by the School Meals Coalition

Faced with these worrying figures, the UN and its partners recall the capital importance of school meal programs. These are among the most important and effective “social safety nets” for school-aged children.

Not only do they keep children, especially girls, in school, but they help improve learning outcomes by providing better and more nutritious diets. They also support local economies and create jobs. Ultimately, these programs contribute to “breaking the links between hunger, an unsustainable food system and the learning crisis”.

A growing number of governments have come together to create the School Meals Coalition, which aims to ensure that every child can receive a healthy and nutritious meal, complemented by other health interventions, by 2030. from France and Finland, 70 countries, supported by more than 70 organizations, have worked tirelessly to develop school meals programs.

The leadership of Rwanda and Benin

For example, in Rwanda, the national school meals program increased its coverage from 660,000 to 3.8 million children in two years. In Benin, the government has pledged to increase the school meals budget from $79 million to $240 million over the next five years.

For its part, the United States has pledged to provide $943 million next year to support national school lunch programs.

Despite this progress, the bleak global economic outlook and the over-indebtedness of some developing countries remain the main obstacle to the expansion of school meals programs.

So ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) and Education Transformation Summit in New York, WFP and partners are calling for an ambitious action plan to restore school meals programs interrupted by the pandemic and expand their reach to an additional 73 million children. Detailed cost estimates for this plan suggest that about $5.8 billion per year would be needed.

Nearly half of those starved by the global food crisis are children