WFP and UNICEF continue support to school children in Iraq in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic
Baghdad, April 15, 2021: In a new joint initiative, UNICEF and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) are providing a cash stipend to the families of 2,400 primary school girls in Basra, to support their transition to lower secondary education. The pilot project will help adolescent girls in the Shatt Al-Arab district continue learning whether they are in school or forced to study at home because of COVID-related closures.
The stipends, which are paid in Iraqi dinars at the equivalent of USD 80, will help impoverished and vulnerable families provide for their children. Three installments will be paid to the families during this academic year, amounting to a total of USD 240 per student who stays in education.
“All too often, mothers and fathers who find themselves unable to put food on the table and keep a roof over their children’s heads or provide them an education are tempted to send their daughters into early marriage or into the labour force,” said Paul Edwards, UNICEF’s Representative. “With the support that we are providing, we are working with our partner WFP to help parents close the financial gap and not have to pull their children out of learning as they desperately try to make ends meet,”
With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions including the closure of schools, the ability of children to learn in-person, socialize and play with their friends in the safety of their schools – and in many cases have assured access to a meal – have all been threatened. Hard-won gains in human capital may be set back, affecting the long-term future opportunities and earning potential of students, said a World Bank study in 2020. A joint survey by UNICEF and WFP in late 2020 revealed that over 90 percent of parents prefer their children to return to school, so long as mitigation measures are in place, such as limiting the number of children in classrooms and school yard, a full-time health worker at school, staying home for 14 days if exposed to the virus, and mandatory masks.
“Through this initiative, WFP and UNICEF are focusing on the most vulnerable schoolgirls and their families, at a crucial time when they risk leaving education forever,” said WFP Iraq Representative Abdirahman Meygag. “As soon as it is possible, WFP and the Ministry of Education are ready to resume the National School Feeding Programme to support vulnerable students and families through the provision of nutritious school meals, which also attracts and helps keep children in school.”
In addition to the stipends to the girls from UNICEF and WFP, the package of support, provided in partnership with NGO Mercy Hands, includes teacher training on gender responsive approaches to teaching and learning methods, now done remotely while schools remain closed.
This initiative was made possible thanks to the support of Germany and Canada, without which some girls in Basra may need to leave school prematurely.
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The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.