More than one million schoolchildren in Afghanistan will receive a nutritious snack in school thanks to a new donation of 61,000 metric tons of wheat from India to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), agency officials said today.
The wheat is being converted into biscuits fortified with micronutrients to boost children's nutrition and enhance their ability to learn. The biscuits, totalling 7,496 metric tons and worth an estimated $7.2 million, are the second tranche of an overall pledge of one million metric tons of wheat by India to WFP.
"This donation confirms the humanitarian commitment of the Government and people of India to Afghanistan," WFP Executive Director James T. Morris said in a statement. "I can't think of a better way for India to invest in Afghanistan's future than by giving support to the health and education of children."
Currently, more than 970,000 children receive WFP food in Afghan schools. WFP plans to increase that number to 1.1 million by next spring and to 1.2 million by 2005. India's latest contribution will be pivotal in reaching this objective.
In an effort to encourage attendance, WFP provides 150,000 schoolgirls with a four-litre tin of cooking oil to take home to their families. The oil serves as an extra incentive for parents to keep their daughters in school. In the last two years, the overall gender ratio among sample schools has improved from three girls for every 10 boys to six girls for every 10 boys.
Mr. Morris noted that this year WFP needs more than $4.3 billion to feed almost 110 million people globally. Contributions have so far fallen short by $580 million.
"There are overwhelming demands for food aid coming at us from all sides, and we can't meet them without a concerted and generous response from governments, private corporations and individuals. India's pledge of one million tons of wheat for Afghanistan is an excellent example of the commitment and stronger role we seek from leaders in the developing world," Mr. Morris said.
For its part the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is launching a new emergency project worth $700,000, funded by the Government of Switzerland, to provide agricultural materials to 400 vulnerable farmers, formerly soldiers, in northern Afghanistan. FAO will provide around 600 vegetable seed kits from its own stocks and pay for the transportation of all material in the project.