Like so many people all over the world, I’ve been riveted by the powerful ongoing story out of Egypt about how popular uprising and the organizing strength of young people (the median age of Egyptians is a stunning 24 years old—that’s 17 years younger than Canada) has successfully brought down Mubarak’s autocratic regime.
But in all the talk about why and how and what it all means, I have seen little about the role of the food crisis—despite initial suggestions that soaring staple prices were at the heart of the unrest. And less, still, about how children are faring through all of this.
But according to the World Food Program, which provides food for education programs in the country, things have not been easy for kids. With nearly 20% of the country living on less than $1/day long, there are many, many vulnerable families. Last week WFP reported that over the previous few days, it had offered emergency food to 3,000 schoolchildren and their families, providing 15-day rations—mostly fortified date bars—plus a one month advance on take home rations in the form of 10 kilograms of rice.
Egypt does have a national school feeding program offered to about 5 million students a year who can show their need and attend school at least 85% of the time. According to the Global Child Nutrition Foundation, with the assistance of the WFP, the program offers younger children milk and biscuits, while older students receive more substantial “sweet pies.”
The school feeding program has been around since 1951 and has a progressive approach aimed at investing in girls, encouraging them to attend school by providing food and take home rations, and combating child labour through school food incentives.
But the political crisis has obviously shaken the country to its core. School feeding isn’t the only thing that is on shaky ground. The world will be watching to see how Egypt puts itself back together again.