In Haiti, Keeping Students in School with a Free Daily Meal

Schools across Haiti’s capital, devastated by the January 12 quake that killed close to 300,000 people, officially reopened on April 6 but many children are still missing from classrooms in the capital. Besides the thousands that were killed in the quake, some have left for the countryside and some are being kept home by their parents out of fear. Alejandro Chicheri, a spokesman for the World Food Program, says that they “are scared that there will be another earthquake and the school will be destroyed.” For example, Rosalie Javoukey School has around 400 students, 200 fewer than before the earthquake.

To encourage attendance, the World Food Program has launched a major food distribution program in schools in Haiti to ensure that the children get a meal each day. Chicheri explains, “We’re trying to get as many children as possible back to school, which will allow them to return to reality and to save their school year. And it also helps parents who are trying to find work so they can bring some money home.”

Mother Louis, a teacher at the Rosalie Javoukey School, points out that for many students in this underprivileged neighborhood, the meal is a blessing. “There are some parents who don’t have anything to give their children to eat. You can see it on the faces of the children; they are preoccupied because they are hungry.” The meals provide the children with some comfort in the short-term at least, but many remain deeply scarred and traumatized by the experience of the January quake.

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