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By Jordan Teague
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, beset with political challenges and highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Four out of every five Malawians are farmers, but recurring droughts as well as floods have reduced both agricultural production and household food security. Half of the population lives at or below the national poverty line, and Malawi remains near the bottom of the region on educational performance.
Many children in Malawi do not finish their education, and many schoolchildren fall short of expected literacy levels. Girls are especially vulnerable to missing out on education because of early marriage, pregnancy, or household responsibilities. Since 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been working with the Malawian government to help respond to these problems through the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program. In Malawi, the McGovern-Dole program is implemented by the World Food Program.
Triphonia Kalemba has two children, Eliya and Bertha, who attend Mdzobwe Primary School in Lilongwe District, Malawi. Triphonia is the chairwoman of the Mothers’ Group for Mdzobwe Primary School. As part of this group, she helps to prepare, cook, and serve the daily school meals that are funded by the McGovern-Dole program. She is just one of many people in local communities who are contributing their knowledge and time to help support the school feeding program.
The school meals available through McGovern-Dole have helped Triphonia’s family immensely, she says. Both children have remained in school, and the daily porridge, which is fortified with vitamins and minerals, enables them to concentrate better in class. And, because the meal is served for breakfast, Eliya and Bertha are always on time for school, too!
School meals programs are known to reduce food insecurity and improve children’s education. Mdzobwe Primary School is no exception. For many of the students, the breakfast porridge is the only meal they can count on receiving each day. Since the meals program started, enrollment in the primary school has nearly tripled, and its attendance rate is nearly 100 percent. The children are better able to learn, too – each year, three out of every four students pass and move on to the next grade.
School feeding is expected to remain an essential part of Malawi’s national development strategy. Particularly with climate change continuing to reduce the volume of crops farmers are able to produce, many families continue to struggle to put food on the table. This is especially true during the annual lean or hunger season—when food grown the previous year has been consumed, but the new crop is not yet ready for harvest. It is therefore more important than ever that the McGovern-Dole program is there to help ensure that schoolchildren do not go hungry and that they get an education.
For more information on the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program, read our fact sheet.
Jordan Teague is international policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute.
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