The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have renewed their partnership aimed at strengthening health and nutrition programmes for school children and will unite their expertise so that children and young people can learn, grow, and contribute to the future of their countries.
As schools re-open, school health and nutrition programmes are more important than ever because they help stop children going hungry, ensure they get nutritious food, provide powerful incentives for parents to re-enrol children in school, and increase retention rates, especially among girls. This helps address one of the biggest learning crises in history.
According to the Memorandum of Understanding signed today, UNESCO and WFP will advocate for the education, health, nutrition and wellbeing needs of school-aged children and young people. They will also promote the importance of cross-sectoral responses and school health and nutrition to help children recover from this pandemic and achieve their potential.
Through a combination of advocacy, research, and policy and programming, the organizations will support school health and nutrition initiatives across the world, towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to Stefania Giannini, Assistant Director-General for Education at UNESCO, “The importance of good nutrition and health to ensure all children and young people have access to and can take full advantage of learning opportunities cannot be underestimated. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the resulting school closures, has emphasized the interrelationship between education and health. We have seen that schools are not only essential to deliver education but provide a vital social space and deliver key services like school feeding, vaccinations, and health education, which are central to learners’ health, sense of belonging and wellbeing.”
World Food Programme Assistant Executive Director, Valerie Guarnieri added that, “Even before the pandemic, more than 73 million children in extreme poverty were attending school on an empty stomach, preventing them from concentrating and learning in school. Many more children did not even attend school because of preventable and treatable illnesses and malnutrition, translating to an equivalent 500 million schooldays lost to ill health each year; the COVID-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse.”
UNESCO and WFP will also monitor global progress on school-age children and adolescents’ health, nutrition and wellbeing and inform education policy and programming. At the regional and country levels, the agencies will work with partners to support governments to advance multisectoral policies and programmes that address learners’ needs and strengthen national education systems.