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School meals are a safety net to ensure every child has access to education, health & nutrition
by World Food Programme (WFP)
School meals are an essential safety net which helps to ensure that every child has access to education, health and nutrition. In the fight against hunger, school meals are a sound investment in the next generation. For this reason, WFP provided meals, snacks or take-home food to 18.3 million children in 71 countries in 2017.
WFP supports countries in developing sustainable government-owned programmes. WFP engages in school meals policy dialogue, provides technical assistance and supports knowledge exchange between countries. In 2017, WFP supported 65 governments to enhance the quality and efficiency of their national programmes, which resulted in enhanced school meals programmes for an additional 39 million children.
School meals help families support their children’s education while protecting their food security. They help break the inter-generational cycle of hunger and poverty that affects the world’s most vulnerable areas by helping children become healthy and productive adults. School Feeding programmes can specifically target children who are especially in need, such as those affected by HIV/AIDS, orphans, disabled children and former child soldiers.
School meals promote education by removing barriers to accessing a classroom and learning. A daily meal at school allows children to focus on their studies rather than their stomachs and helps increase enrolment and attendance, promotes graduation rates and improves cognitive abilities.
School meals also help keep children in school during emergencies or protracted crises, maintaining their sense of stability and ensuring a generation does not miss out on education.
In the last 50 years, WFP has scaled-up school meals programmes in more than 40 countries in response to armed conflict, natural disasters, and food and financial crises.
In poor countries, a WFP-supported school meal is often the only regular meal a child receives. WFP uses nutrition-sensitive planning and strives to include fresh foods to make meals as nutritious as possible. Without them, hunger and micronutrient deficiencies can cause irreversible damage to their growing bodies.
When school meals are combined with micronutrient fortification, the effects of that investment are multiplied. This is especially so when they are tailored to specific nutritional needs, such as those for adolescent girls or children affected by HIV/AIDS.
Linking small-scale farmers to school meals programmes helps support rural economies, making programmes more sustainable. WFP supports home-grown school meals programmes in 46 countries. In these countries, WFP works with farmers and local partners to increase capacities.
All these outcomes translate into an increase in community resilience; confirming School Feeding Programmes as a valuable investment. http://bit.ly/2X53xCG
The impact of school feeding programmes
Today nearly half the world’s schoolchildren, some 310 million, in low and middle-income countries eat a daily meal at school. India now feeds more than 100 million children; Brazil 48 million; China 44 million; South Africa and Nigeria each more than 9 million.
The last ten years have seen a growing global consensus that school feeding programmes generate a lasting impact that can help shape the future of a nation. A landmark publication developed by WFP and the editorial team of Disease Control Priorities, offers compelling evidence of the multiple benefits of investing in school feeding programmes: http://bit.ly/2XHOnR4
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Investing in community capacity to address child protection challenges
by Harvard FXB, Aangan Trust
Most interventions designed to protect children from serious harm begin after that harm has occurred. Preventing the harm in the first place would be a far preferable strategy.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history – recognized this thirty years ago. It requires states to take measures to prevent violence, abuse, injury, neglect, maltreatment or exploitation to children (article 19).
In the face of growing global evidence of an epidemic of violence and abuse against children, recent international fora also emphasize the urgency of a preventative approach to child harm.
In 2015, world leaders committed to end all forms of violence against children by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, acknowledging that “investment in preventing violence against children offers substantial returns.”
However, we still know very little about what preventing harm to children looks like in practice. Funders favour time-bound projects with visible outcomes, but prevention is a long-term process and the factors that lead to instances of child harm are complicated. There is little rigorous research in this area.
Today, Harvard FXB is pleased to publish a study that makes an evidence-based case for prioritizing prevention, Before, Not After: An Evaluation of Aangan Trust’s Preventative Approach to Child Protection in India.
The study documents and evaluates the work carried out by the children’s rights nonprofit Aangan Trust since late 2015 in Konia, a peri-urban slum area in Varanasi, a large city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
Aangan’s model invests in the capacity of residents of poor communities, trained women that are known as “Child Protection Volunteers” (CPVs), to identify challenges to children’s safety and initiate responses before harm occurs.
Like front line healthcare workers or community paralegals, these women act as intermediaries between families in the community and the complex web of state officials engaged in India’s fledgling child protection system.
In partnership with the Indian research institute Pratichi Trust, researchers collected 64 qualitative and 1,024 quantitative interviews in Konia and in a nearby comparison site, Deendayalpur.
The research involved a representative sample of children ages 10-17 and caregivers, as well as teachers, healthcare workers, police, non-profits and government officials. Results identify Aangan’s theory of change, assess how this matches up to the reality of program implementation, and evaluate the program’s results.
Results make a compelling case that, in little over two years, Aangan’s model achieved progress on issues that are structurally and historically entrenched. The report documents stories of children who avoided being trafficked, whose marriages were delayed, who were signed up for school.
Overall rates of out of school children were significantly lower in the community where Aangan works than in the comparison site, and more working children studied part-time.
Awareness of trafficking was dramatically improved, as well as knowledge of who to call when a child needed help. The Aangan volunteers helped children and families benefit from existing services, in particular health facilities and securing identity documents.
Aangan also had a demonstrable impact on the impact of local service providers with duties towards children.
Nevertheless, the FXB study also shows just how difficult harm prevention work is, especially when carried out in a context where structural factors militate against child wellbeing. It highlights the need for more effective investments in education, social protection, economic development and legal enforcement.
And it questions the viability of volunteer community work as a sustainable method for incentivizing early intervention and connecting families to government social protection programs.
Overall, “Before Not After” shows that Aangan’s harm prevention model has considerable potential to yield benefits to at risk children.
Harvard FXB is now conducting data analysis for another evaluation of community-level prevention, the model run by Child in Need Institution (CINI) in West Bengal state. This work is intended to generate empirical data that can guide policy development, accelerate investment in initiatives that prevent child harm from happening, and spark further research in this field.
* Read the executive summary and access the full report via the link below.
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