GENEVA - The U.N. World Food Program reports the Kenyan Government will assume full responsibility for organizing and implementing the school lunch program it started in the country 40 years ago.
Over the past four decades, the World Food Program has been providing lunches to 1.6 million school children in arid and semi-arid areas of Kenya. For most of these children, the lunch they receive at school is their only hot meal of the day.
WFP says school lunches for impoverished children play a crucial role in providing them with the nutritious food they need to remain healthy. It says these meals also act as an incentive for parents to send children to school. It notes children who are educated have a better chance of growing up to become productive adults.
WFP spokesman, Herve Verhoosel, said the distribution of school meals has been jointly organized with the Kenyan Government over past years. He told VOA the transition away from WFP's involvement started gradually a few years ago.
"Then the Government was starting step by step to take over a bit more and a bit more and a bit more. It was the best way to do it to make sure that they had the capacity. We needed to make sure that the Government had the capacity to take over such a program. And, that is the case in Kenya. Twenty-four million dollars for that, 4,000 schools, 1.6 million children. It is quite a budget for Kenya," said Verhoosel.
Verhoosel said the logistics of organizing such a large program and raising the money needed to run it is very complex and can be overwhelming. He said WFP welcomes the Kenyan Government's decision to maintain this crucial program. He said his agency hopes other African countries as well as nations in other regions of the world will be able to do the same one day.
Last year, the U.N. agency implemented and supported school feeding programs in 71 countries. WFP also directly provided school meals to 18.3 million children in 60 countries.