More than 10,000 Syrian children attending schools in refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq are receiving meals through a United Nations school feeding project, the world body's food relief agency announced Thursday.
The project, launched by the World Food Programme (WFP), provides children with meals and snacks at school with the aim of boosting nutrition and encouraging children to continue with their education. According to WFP, since the programme started on 24 March, school attendance has increased by 20 per cent.
"Many Syrian children have already gone through an incredible ordeal - losing family members, crossing borders and living as refugees in neighbouring countries - and they need to be back in school," said WFP's Regional Emergency Coordinator for the Syria crisis, Muhannad Hadi.
"We use school feeding across the world to provide vital nutrition to children and encourage them to stay in school. We don't want to see a lost generation of Syrian children who fail to reach their potential."
The project has reached more than 6,000 children in the two schools run by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, and over 4,500 children in the Domiz camp in northern Iraq and at two refugee camps in Al-Qaim in central Iraq.
The snack provided consists of a fortified date bar or biscuit enriched with 11 vitamins, three minerals and 450 calories to boost students' energy and help them concentrate more on lessons. In Jordan, WFP and the non-governmental organization Save the Children help transport, package and store the date bars, which teachers distribute to children in the classrooms.
In a news release, WFP said it plans to increase its school feeding programme to reach some 30,000 Syrian children in Zaatari refugee camp and 6,000 children in refugee camps in Iraq. However, the agency said it needs USD 780,000 to continue the programme until the end of the year.
WFP must raise USD 19 million each week in order to provide food assistance to 2.5 million hungry people inside Syria and more than one million refugees in neighbouring countries. That amounts to an urgently needed USD 113 million to continue operations until June.
More than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed and more than three million displaced since the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad began in March 2011. In addition, some 1.1 million people have taken refuge in neighbouring countries. UNICEF estimates that out of the four million people in need, 50 per cent are children.