UNITED NATIONS – More than 60 governments and 50 United Nations agencies and organizations have joined forces to press for the restoration of school lunches for all 388 million primary school children who were receiving meals before the COVID-19 pandemic.
They will also push for school meals to start for the 73 million vulnerable young people who did not have access to them before the spread of the coronavirus in early 2020.
Led by France and Finland, the School Meals Alliance was officially launched at a United Nations event on Tuesday with the long-term goal of ensuring that every child in need in the world has a nutritious school meal by 2030.
Finland’s ambassador to the United Nations, Jukka Salovara, called school meals a “great social equalizer”, saying that it “can really act as a social safety net within communities”.
He said that since the coalition’s formation in September, support has been very encouraging, but “since the goal of the coalition is to reach all children by 2030… we have to have a very broad participation.”
“School meals are very important for our society’s recovery from the impact of COVID 19” because they “keep children in school, improve their nutrition, health, education and performance,” a development expert at the French mission, Olivier Richard, told reporters.
Richard said he doesn’t think the coalition will get support from every country, which is why the UN agencies working globally are so important.
In a joint announcement late Tuesday, five UN agencies voiced support for the coalition’s campaign, saying that school health and nutrition programs support the growth and development of school children and adolescents and “can help combat child poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all its forms.”
The declaration, signed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Food Program and the World Health Organization, said the declaration.
According to the coalition, the 388 million students receiving lunch before the pandemic represented one in two primary school children worldwide.
Carmen Burbano, director of school programs at the World Food Programme, told reporters that by May 2020, 370 million of these children had lost access to meals because schools closed, “basically, all of these programs have collapsed.”
“Currently, our latest information indicates that 238 million children have resumed access to these programmes,” she said. “We believe that there are still 150 million children who do not have access to these programs at the moment, mainly because schools continue to be closed in large parts of the world.”
Burbano said that 73 million children without meals before the pandemic live in 60 low-income and low-middle-income countries living in extreme poverty — 80% of them in Africa.
She said that prior to COVID-19, governments were spending between $40 billion and $50 billion annually in local budgets on school lunch programs, so the coalition’s number one goal is to call on leaders to take back what they were doing before the pandemic.
Burbano said $4.7 billion was needed to reach the 73 million children who “were falling through the cracks.”
She said it was estimated that $3 billion would come from local budgets and $1.7 billion from donors to help extremely fragile countries in the Sahel and Horn of Africa as well as Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and other countries that cannot afford school lunch programs. currently.
The coalition is calling for $1.7 billion, and additional funding to achieve the 2030 goal.