October 23, 2007

Cotabato City – Children in some of the distressed communities in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are now more eager to attend school because of the food assistance provided by the World Food Program (WFP).

In its 16 months of operation, the Food for Education campaign of the WFP has managed to encourage more children in the ARMM to go to school.

“There has been roughly around 20-30% increase in school attendance in our target schools in the region,” says Aveen Acuña Gulo, Head of the WFP Cotabato Sub-office. WFP was among the international donor organization invited by the Philippine government to help implement the Emergency Operations Philippines – Assistance to Conflict-Affected Mindanao (EMOP-ACAM), which is offshoot of the 2003 World Bank joint need assessment.

EMOP-ACAM through the WFP and its implementing partners such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the Community and Family Services International (CFSI) respond to the findings of the WB assessment by providing food assistance as a support to the peace process.

“We feed for peace” goes the main credo of the WFP. The organization considers “food needs support as important confidence and trust-building measures and quick/positive response as peace dividends to conflict-affected communities.”

A bulk of WFP’s assistance, around 60%, goes to its Food for Education campaign. Children are given rice as incentive to their consistent attendance to school. A child has to attend school at least 4 times in a week for a continuous period of more than a month in order to receive rice.

“We actually don’t provide it for free. The child has to do his/her share. And that is to attend school on a consistent, regular basis,” Gulo said.

The program does not only address the problem on hunger but it also contributes to increasing literacy rate.

It has been determined that among the reasons why a child fails to attend school, particularly in conflict-affected areas, is hunger. Most of the families in these areas lack access to food.

Gulo explains that the problem is not so much on food production but on the inability of some people to access food. WFP addresses this by directly giving the food assistance to beneficiaries.

Aside from its Food for Education campaign, WFP also conducts onsite feeding to target communities and it implements a mother and child health program. (bpi-armm)