School meals resume in Cambodia after Covid-19 interruptions

School meals resumed with the re-opening of schools in Cambodia in February. - AFP

PHNOM PENH (Xinhua): School meals resumed in Cambodia after the situation of Covid-19 has been brought under control, according to a joint statement released on Monday (Feb 8).

Approximately 280,000 school children in 1,113 schools across 10 provinces missed free nutritious school meals during the nationwide school closure to curb the Covid-19 spread, said the statement jointly released by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Data from the Cambodia Covid-19 Joint Education Needs Assessment 2020, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, indicated that 40 per cent of children consume fewer meals per day than they did before the pandemic, it said, adding that of these children, over 50 per cent are from households already poor and reliant on national social assistance systems.

A UN Covid-19 socio-economic impact assessment in Cambodia further indicated that although availability of food has not been affected greatly, many people have been forced by economic circumstances to adopt coping strategies including borrowing food, reducing food intake and greater reliance on cheaper, less nutritious food options.

"Fortunately, school feeding has resumed with the re-opening of schools in Cambodia earlier this month, phased in to resume in all the schools with meal programs supported by the government and WFP by March 2021," the statement said.

Unicef and WFP welcomed the resumption of school feeding alongside the re-opening of schools.

"School health and nutrition programmes mitigate hunger and serve as a powerful incentive for children to return to school," said Claire Conan, WFP representative and country director.

"This is especially true for the most vulnerable children, who rely most on school meals and for whom home-schooling is least available," she added.

Foroogh Foyouzat, Unicef's country representative in Cambodia, said that with schools now open again, it's important that school nutrition and support programmes also resume.

The Southeast Asian nation has done well in containing the spread of Covid-19. According to the Ministry of Health, the kingdom has so far registered a total of 474 confirmed CovidD-19 cases, with zero deaths and 456 recoveries.

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