In April, schools in Tajikistan were suspended and children sent to early summer break due to increasing COVID-19 cases in the country. However, WFP continued its support to schoolchildren from the most vulnerable families. In May it provided 24,000 families with a one-time take-home ration.
While schools reopened in mid-August — two weeks earlier than scheduled to compensate for time lost during the longer summer break — WFP resumed school feeding in September in Sughd Region and the Districts of the Republican Subordination (DRS) as it had been facing a shortfall during the first month due to border closures and longer lead times resulting from COVID-19 mitigation measures.
WFP was able to resume the programme thanks to funds from the Russian Federation that helped WFP purchase some 3,000 metric tons of fortified wheat flour — the first batch of a total of 6,000 metric tons of fortified wheat flour that is scheduled to be received in 2020 with Russian funds.
Vegetable oil is expected to arrive into the country later in the year and local governmental authorities and the parent-teacher associations in Sughd and Districts of the Republican Subordination (DRS) confirmed to contribute vegetable oil and other supplementary food items to support school feeding at schools.
“Resuming school feeding, especially during COVID-19 is important. Ensuring sufficient, diverse and nutritious food contributes to strengthening children’s immune system and increases their capacities to cope with other diseases as well,” said Hikmatullo Mirzoev, head Rasht District Education Department.
Khatlon and Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) regions resumed school feeding in late October.
“School feeding helps the children reach their full potential. School feeding for children means not only better nutrition and health, but also increased access to education and improved educational outcomes,” said Sadotkhuja Mirakov, the director of secondary school number 26 in the remote district of Rasht in Tajikistan.
Tajik schoolchildren from grades 1 to 4 in 2,000 schools across 52 rural districts are served hot, nutritious soup or other local meals and a piece of traditional bread baked using WFP fortified wheat flour. Parent-Teacher Associations (PTAs) frequently supply fresh vegetables as a nutritious supplement. Parents, local authorities and other community members started voicing their readiness to further support the School Feeding Programme. In 2019, more than 500,000 Tajik schoolchildren were covered by WFP School Feeding Programme.