Food insecurity and malnutrition have a direct negative impact on the primary school enrolment and retention rates of children in developing countries, where almost 66 million primary school-aged children go to school hungry. As part of its mandate to improve access to quality primary education for children in developing countries, Dubai Cares is working with international aid organizations to introduce school feeding programs for undernourished primary school aged children in the Gaza Strip and Bangladesh, benefiting 80,000 and 88,000 children, respectively.
Apart from Dubai Cares funding, the programs are also funded with money raised during Dubai Cares’ “School Feeding Campaign”, launched in 2010 during the Holy Month of Ramadan under the direction of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, founder of the UAE-based philanthropic organization. The total cost of both programs is approximately AED13 million.
Tariq Al Gurg, CEO of Dubai Cares, said, “Dubai Cares recognizes education as the best long-term solution to poverty in the developing world and over the years our approach has gone beyond the provision of school facilities and supplies to include the provision of nutritious meals and in-school feeding, among other interventions. Our ‘School Feeding Campaign’, launched last year to raise funds to provide children in developing countries with the required daily nutrition through in-school meals, received tremendous support from the UAE community and will ensure the achievement of our program targets in the two countries.”
In the Gaza Strip, Dubai Cares partnered with the World Food Programme (WFP) to improve access to education and academic performance and support local economic opportunities. Implemented over a one-year period, the program aims to increase enrolment rates by improving students’ nutrition state. Dubai Cares aims to achieve its program goals by providing 60g fortified date bars purchased from local suppliers to 80,000 students from 150 schools on a daily basis.
In Bangladesh, Dubai Cares is funding the Bangladesh School Feeding Project in partnership with the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) to reduce malnutrition by increasing the consumption of appropriate and fortified foods by primary school aged children living in low-income families on a sustained basis to increase their access to education. The program is multi-faceted - it aims to demonstrate the viability and feasibility of the provision of a variety of foods, in this case - hot cooked meals from centralized kitchens built by Dubai Cares and fortified food products during the course of the week - in order to scale-up this model of school feeding in Bangladesh.
The two-year program provides nutrition supplementation and nutrition education, integrated with opportunities to strengthen critical interventions such as de-worming and water and sanitation, and capacity building of the teachers and policy makers which will act as an important advocacy tool for the scale-up of the initiative.