The United Nations food relief agency today started a fundraising campaign, using a smartphone application, to provide school meals in a southern district of Malawi, where El Niño-induced drought has reduced crop yields.
“Malawi is in an extremely vulnerable situation, with estimates showing that more than one in three people will be food insecure over the next nine months,” Coco Ushiyama, Country Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), said in a news release.
“People around the world who have enough to eat can easily imagine the terrible impact that hunger has on children in such a situation,” she said, encouraging smartphone users to donate funds through the free ShareTheMeal app.
The app allows a donation of as little as $0.50 a day. Estimates in Malawi show that for every $1 spent on school meals, at least $6 is returned in better health and productivity when these children become adults.
The goal is to provide school meals for an entire year to 58,000 school children in Zomba district severely affected by drought and experiencing high levels of food insecurity. Two thirds of children at a school said they had had no food to eat that morning before leaving home.
The children, six to 13 years of age, will receive a specially fortified porridge, through WFP’s school meals programme. A daily hot meal at school has been shown to boost attendance and improve children’s ability to learn.
Zomba district suffers from low enrolment, high dropout and repetition rates, and wide gender disparities in schools, all of which are likely to be aggravated during this time of crisis.
More than one third of children under the age of five in Malawi are stunted as a result of malnutrition. A Cost of Hunger in Africa study conducted in Malawi shows that child undernutrition costs Malawi more than 10 per cent of gross domestic product per year.