This month the Haitian government will launch a national deworming campaign for schoolchildren, in partnership with the World Food Programme (WFP), the Ministry of National Education, and the Foundation for Development and the Framework of the Haitian Family (FONDEFH).
The campaign will benefit about 700,000 students who currently participate in WFP’s school feeding program. Children will receive tablets to deter intestinal worms, which rob undernourished children of necessary nutrients and inhibit their growth. Deworming involves providing each child with one deworming tablet per year to eradicate an active infection or prevent eggs from turning into an active infection.
In addition to deworming tablets, children will receive a vitamin nutritional supplement to improve overall health. The campaign will also attempt to raise awareness among students and teachers of the 2,000 participating schools to promote health, nutrition, and good eating habits.
WFP has helped provide a hot meal each day to 685,000 children in Haiti during 2012-2013 the school year. They currently serve school meals in 60 countries to around 22 million children. WFP school meals are usually provided at breakfast or lunch, or as a high-energy snack. Some students also receive take-home rations to compensate families for the cost of sending children to school. In 2012, 1.3 million girls and 500,000 boys recieved take-home rations from WFP.
School feeding has been shown to improve students’ concentration and attendance rates while supporting local farmers and tackling malnutrition and family food insecurity. The program also benefits girls, who are often typically excluded from schooling, by providing an incentive for families to send their daughters to school.
“We have a proverb in Haiti”, explains Danielle Selicour, the headmistress of the Joseph et Bertha Wigfall School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, “‘Sak vid pa kanpe’, which means an empty sack cannot stand up. By this we mean that when your stomach is empty you are not able to do anything. I have worked at this school for over 36 years and we have been receiving WFP school meals for as long as I can remember. But it is not just the food that is important; it is also the health of the school children. The parents here are really happy because for the first time since the earthquake we are also giving deworming medications. This improves the children’s health as well as providing them with a hot meal at school.”
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