Palestinian schoolchildren to get government food aid

The Jordanian authorities will start distributing food rations to Palestinian refugee children at schools run by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) on 12 October. This is part of a programme to help cushion pupils from soaring food prices.

UNRWA spokesman Matter Saqer in Amman told IRIN the move would have a positive impact on children’s educational achievement in poverty-stricken areas.

Each school will get food twice a week - enough for all the children. No students will be allowed to take any of the food home after school.

The measure was approved by Jordan's King Abdullah in August to ensure equal treatment of Palestinian children with their Jordanian counterparts in government-run schools.

Most of the schoolchildren, in 13 refugee camps, whose parents and grandparents arrived after the 1948 and 1967 wars with Israel, are naturalised Jordanian citizens. However, they remain registered as refugees and many receive aid from UNRWA.

Officials at UNRWA said at least 70,000 students would take advantage of the Jordanian government-funded programme.

Soaring world food prices have hit Jordan - a country not over-endowed with water or natural resources - hard. Poverty is rife and unemployment is high.

Mid-morning snack

The school nutrition programme, which has been running in Jordanian state schools since late 1999, provides each child with a mid-morning snack consisting of a 200ml carton of UHT milk; 70 grams of high protein biscuits fortified with vitamins A, D and iron; and a piece of fruit every day.

The snack provides children with the requisite daily nutritional intake and is often the only meal many of these impoverished children have during the day.

Officials from UNRWA said the move would help students in the camps at a time when the country is reeling under unprecedented increases in the cost of living.

The national aid programme was established after nationwide surveys revealed serious health deficiencies - particularly vitamins A and D, and iron - among schoolchildren.

A June 2006 position paper by the European Emergency Food Security Group questioned the effectiveness and sustainability of school feeding programmes.

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