Japan yesterday signed a memorandum of understanding to provide $3.2 million through the World Food Programme to support the government’s implementation of a food aid programme in schools for the benefit of 200,000 vulnerable children.
The grant was made during a signing ceremony between Japanese Ambassador Mikami Masahiro and WFP country director Francesca Erdelmann, which was witnessed by Education Minister Hang Chuon Naron.
Mr Masahiro said WFP will use the grant assistance to purchase approximately 415 metric tonnes of canned fish to be used in a breakfast project to feed schoolchildren from the most vulnerable communities.
“Cambodia’s economy has grown significantly over the past years and the poverty rate has decreased dramatically,” he said. “However, especially in rural areas, a significant portion of the population still suffers from malnutrition because they lack access to sufficient and various food.”
Mr Masahiro said that by providing canned fish for the WFP’s School Feeding Programme, Japan’s assistance will contribute to improving not only children’s health, but also their access to education.
“I sincerely hope that our assistance will be effectively used to secure a better future for children,” he noted.
Ms Erdelmann said that the school food programme has contributed considerably to the improvement of school enrolment, attendance and concentration over the years and continues to do so to benefit children from the poorest families.
“Increasingly we also see the impact of school meals on household food security and local economic development,” she said.
Ms Erdelmann noted that the canned fish provided by Japan is a highly nutritious addition to the school meal food basket and the children enjoy it.
“Nutritionally, it adds important proteins and micronutrients to the meal thus contributing to the children’s well-being and their continued growth and development,” she said.
Mr Naron said during the ceremony that the grant assistance will be used to purchase canned fish, salt and vegetables to prepare breakfast for about 217,900 primary school students in Kampong Thom, Siem Reap, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat and Oddar Meanchey provinces, adding that the government is providing 2,000 tonnes of rice yearly for the school food programme.
“This provision of food will encourage poor children from remote areas to attend school, because sometimes, without food, some children do not want to go to school,” he said. “Therefore, the programme will attract children to go to school, and by having adequate and nutritious food they will be able to study well.”
Mr Naron said that in addition to the Japanese and WFP assistance, the government this year has also implemented a programme, using local products, to provide breakfast to more than 50,000 students in 205 primary schools in Siem Reap, Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Preah Vihear, Kampong Chhnang and Kampong Thom provinces.