VIENTIANE – Japanese Ambassador Kenichi Kobayashi today handed over a donation of canned fish to Minister of Education and Sports Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phout Simmalavong at the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) warehouse in Vientiane.
The 402 metric tonnes of canned Japanese mackerel and sardines, worth US$3.6 million, will be used to prepare healthy lunches for some 132,000students in 1,423 primary schools around Lao PDR enrolled in the national school feeding programme. Introduced in 2010, the programme has since expanded and is now in 31 districts in eight provinces, thanks to the support from many donors and partners, including Japan, the World Bank, Catholic Relief Services and WFP.
“Food security is paramount and so is good nutrition for the people of Lao PDR, particularly the children. By investing in the younger generation’s health and access to basic education, we contribute to human capacity-building for the future development of Lao PDR. As a strategic partner, Japan will continue to support the Lao PDR through support in food aid, agriculture and education, by working hand-in-hand with international organizations such as WFP,” Ambassador of Japan to Lao PDR, Kenichi Kobayashi said.
“School meals enhance enrollment rates and help our children stay in school longer and learn better. Investing in children’s nutrition, health and education helps them to become productive adults later. With the help of healthy meals, families and communities are also seeing the benefits of school and the role of education in reducing poverty in the long term,” Assoc. Prof. Dr. Phout Simmalavong, Minister of Education and Sports said.
The handover ceremony was witnessed by a delegation of parliamentarians from Japan on a visit to Lao PDR, led by Masahiro Komura, former Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Finance and a Member of the House of Representatives. The delegation will have the opportunity of visiting a school in Salavan Province, to witness how a school can become a hub of community development with the help of school meals and their related infrastructure.
“We, at WFP, are putting great emphasis on developing schools around Lao PDR to improve the health and nutrition of children,” said Jan Delbaere, WFP Country Director and Representative. “In addition to increased enrolment, attendance and better learning results for children, we also believe that school meals have the potential to lift families out of poverty as it creates income generating opportunities for communities as a whole. With support from the Government of Japan and our long-standing collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Sports, we are able to advance this agenda step by step.”
Existing donors to WFP’s Lao PDR programme include France, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, Japan, Korea, Russia, the United States and private donors.