Laos govt and private sectors extend support for free school meals programme

Signing of a funding agreement to support the School Lunch Promotion Project in Khammuan province. - Vientiane Times/ANN

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): The Laos government and the private sector will continue to support the School Lunch Promotion Project, to improve school enrolment in remote areas of Laos by providing daily nutritious lunches for schoolchildren.

The Nam Theun 2 Power Company (NTPC) on Thursday signed a funding agreement with the Education for Development Foundation (EDF) to support the Lao government to implement school feeding programmes at 16 schools in Nakai district, Khammuan province.

Under the agreement, Nam Theun 2 Power Company has committed to provide 3.2 billion kip in funding over three years.

Deputy Minister of Education and Sports Mr Sourioudong Sundara witnessed the signing of the funding agreement.

The initiative aims to improve primary school enrolment and attendance in vulnerable and remote areas of Laos by providing children with free lunches.

According to the latest Country Brief published in January 2024 by the World Food Programme Laos (WFP), 33 percent of children in Laos under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

Under the programme, students can concentrate better at school by having nutritious meals, which provide them with improved learning conditions.

In addition, children benefit from holistic programmes that also include interventions concerning water, sanitation, and hygiene; school vegetable gardens; agriculture; and nutrition education, supporting a healthy and nutritious way of life as children grow.

Free school lunches also serve as a social safety net for vulnerable families, improving the food security and nutrition situation for their children.

The funding support provided by the NTPC to the School Feeding Programme targets three main objectives.

Firstly, it will increase the capacity building of the stakeholders involved in the programme and, secondly, improve the sustainability of the programme by implementing model schools.

The funding will also foster sustainable school feeding programmes through exchanges and experience-sharing between model schools and other schools that are part of the programme.

WFP supported programmes in more than 2,000 schools across Vientiane and 13 provinces, originally including 15 schools in Nakai district, which is where the reservoir of the Nam Theun 2 hydroelectric plant is located.

In 2021, WFP handed over the school feeding programmes at 915 schools to the government, including the 15 schools in Nakai district.

Since this handover, the programmes have been operated by local communities with a budget allocation from the government and in line with the government’s guidelines under the National School Meals Programme.

The Nam Theun 2 Development Fund agreed to contribute to the School Feeding Programme, which aims to support the Lao government in the continued implementation of the National School Meals Programme at 16 schools in Nakai district starting from 2024.

This will assist the government and local communities to ensure the provision of food for schoolchildren and encourage higher levels of enrollment. - Viemtiane Times/ANN

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