The Importance of Investing in the Health and Nutrition of Schoolchildren and Adolescents Healthy and well-nourished schoolchildren learn better.
Healthy children also have better chances to thrive and fulfil their potential as adults. Ensuring that girls and boys stay in school and are able and ready to learn allows countries to develop their human capital and individuals to achieve their full potential in life. It strengthens community cohesion, stability and productivity, and helps make people and societies more resilient in a rapidly changing world.
Investments in human capital development of children are among the most effective and productive investments that countries can make. Failing to invest in a well-nourished, healthy and educated population undermines growth and economic development: low-income countries in Africa account for 25 out of the 30 countries with the lowest ranking in the World Bank Human Capital Index. For many of these countries, underinvestment in human capital leads to a loss of economic potential ranging from 50 to 70 percent in the long term. Africa’s Human Capital Index puts the region at 40 percent of its potential. Its gross domestic product (GDP) could be 2.5 times higher if the benchmarks for health and education were achieved.
The world has made great strides in improving access to education, but learning remains suboptimal and more investment in high quality education is needed. The world is failing its schoolchildren in other important ways that constrain learning. In low- and middle-income countries, about 300 million schoolchildren have anaemia, causing them to lose some six IQ points per child; and about 73 million schoolchildren in low-income countries go to school hungry.
These conditions translate into the equivalent of between 200 million and 500 million schooldays lost to ill health each year.
Current approaches to investing in a nation’s children are insufficient. While low- and lower-middle income countries invest some USD 210 billion annually in providing basic education for their children (infrastructure, teachers, curriculum), they only invest about USD 1.4 billion to 5.5 billion in ensuring the children have the health and nutrition to allow them to learn: we invest in learning, but not in the learner.
There is a growing consensus that there is a need to fix this mismatch. Very simply: sick children cannot attend school and hungry children cannot learn.
World Food Programme (WFP) will champion this neglected issue. In this strategy WFP lays out how it will advocate globally, and work in partnership, to address gaps in guaranteeing a proper school health and nutrition response for children in schools. In many cases WFP may not be the lead agency in tackling specific challenges, but by working with other agencies to shed light on the issue of school health and nutrition and convening different actors, it will help find solutions to the challenges identified. WFP will do this by leveraging its six decades of experience supporting school health and nutrition, its reach and knowledge of the poorest and hardest to reach populations, and its trajectory of working with more than 100 countries on sustainable national school feeding programmes.
This document also explains the new approach to school feeding adopted by WFP, as a pillar of an integrated school health and nutrition response. A key element of this new approach is to transform school feeding into a major driver of a climate change responsive approach to feeding children, for example by reducing the length of supply chains and adopting a zero-tolerance response to waste. It lays out for governments, partners and WFP staff worldwide what to expect from WFP in the next ten years, what its priorities and roles will be, and how it plans to change its way of working to provide more and better support to governments and children.
This strategy presents a broad call to action and vision and a focused operational approach. It asks governments and partners to join in a new multisectoral, multi-actor response that contributes to achieving at least eight of the Sustainable Development Goals related to poverty (SDG1), hunger (SDG2), health (SDG3), education (SDG4), gender equality (SDG5), economic growth (SDG8), reduced inequalities (SDG10) and strengthened partnerships (SDG17).
Source: World Food Programme