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Parliamentarians call for greater commitment to education and nutrition in COVID-19 recovery

  |   Parliamentarians, SUN Country Network

On Tuesday 04 May, members of parliament across the world met to discuss the role of high-quality school feeding programmes in supporting children’s education and nutrition.

During the High-Level roundtable which was chaired by The Hon. Mike Lake MP, IPNEd Regional Representative for North America, parliamentarians heard from David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programme and H.E. Mamadou Talla, Minister of National Education in Senegal.

Opening the discussion, David Beasley shared the significance of the pandemic’s impact on children: “COVID-19 has impacted not just children and education, but it’s hugely impacted the economy, with economic deterioration and supply chain disruption.”

Mr Beasley also explained the vital work that the World Food Programme (WFP) has been undertaking to ensure that children around the world continue to receive their essential nutrition despite the vast implications of the pandemic on both the delivery and financing of nutrition programmes.

“Due to COVID-19 related school closures, 370 million children lost out on school meals in 2020. For 74 million of those children, those school meals were the only meal they received a day,” said Mr Beasley.

Parliamentarians also heard a powerful account by H.E. Mamadou Talla, Minister of National Education in Senegal of how, with support from WFP, Senegal has scaled up school feeding.

He noted the importance of such programmes for ensuring equity across regions, across genders and across schools. However, gaps still remain and with the impact of COVID-19, work continues to be necessary to ensure that all children receive the support they require to stay in school.

MNA Mehnaz Akber Aziz of the National Assembly of Pakistan, described the huge rates of malnutrition in Pakistan, and shared her support for a global alliance to ensure that all countries are learning from each other’s efforts to support children’s nutrition and development.

From the Parliament of Bangladesh, Aroma Dutta MP enquired as to the WFP’s strategies to ensure gender equity in both education and nutrition, particularly in light of the growing rates of gender-based violence and early marriage that have surfaced as a result of the COVID pandemic.

Hon. Dennitah Ghati of the National Assembly of Kenya shared insights into the impact the pandemic has had on children with disabilities in Kenya, including in restricting access to quality education. With schools in Kenya closed between March 2020 and January 2021, distance learning and feeding programmes often struggled to reach the most marginalised.

Parliamentarians also discussed the role of donor countries in providing crucial financial support for international multilateral organisations such as the World Food Programme. Representatives from the Australian Senate, Canadian House of Commons and UK House of Commons enquired as to the state of their countries’ support for the WFP and how they can advocate to ensure sustainable financing for the WFP as governments grapple with the impact of COVID-19.

Support for Education Cannot Wait (ECW), the only global fund dedicated to education in emergencies and crises contexts, was also discussed. Graham Lang, Head of Education at ECW, shared the work that ECW and WFP have been undertaking together, and the role of parliamentarians in encouraging their governments to support both organisations.

With 39 billion school meals missed due to the pandemic, it is clear that political leadership for education and nutrition is crucial to ensure that children’s development is protected as the world rebuilds from COVID-19.

 

“Parliamentarians have an important role to play in ensuring their governments are doing everything possible to support children’s growth, development and learning, including ensuring they are properly nourished,” said Joseph Nhan-O’Reilly, Executive Director of the International Parliamentary Network for Education.

“The Nutrition for Growth Summit in December 2021 provides a historic opportunity to transform the way the world tackles the global challenge of malnutrition.

“In the lead up to the Summit, MPs can help ensure that children’s nutrition and its links to education are a priority. Very practically we are encouraging MPs to:

  1. Ask their government how it is ensuring the nutritional requirements of marginalised children in their country.

  2. Ask how their government is supporting food security and famine relief, including the extent of its support for the World Food Programme.

  3. Move a motion of support for the work of the World Food Programme, and invite a parliamentary briefing from the WFP Office in their country.

  4. Work with civil society colleagues in their country to ensure appropriate and targeted recommendations reach their government.

 

More information

• Parliamentarians call for greater commitment to education and nutrition in COVID-19 recovery – IPNED website

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