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Cablegate: Wfp's School Feeding Efforts in Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS ROME 002933

SIPDIS


SENSITIVE

FROM U.S. MISSION TO THE UN AGENCIES IN ROME

BAGHDAD FOR AMBASSADOR NEGROPONTE, USAID DIRECTOR AND
USDA/FAS COUNSELOR SMITH
STATE FOR NEA/IR AMBASSADOR RAPHEL, IO A/S HOLMES, IO/EDA,
EB/IFD/OMA
USDA/FAS FOR U/S PENN, ETERPSTRA, MCHAMBLISS, RTILSWORTH AND
LSCHATZ
USAID FOR ADMINISTRATOR NATSIOS, AA/DCHA WINTER, AA/ANE
KUNDER, DCHA/OFDA, D/DCHA/FFP LANDIS
TREASURY FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS
JOINT STAFF FOR JE/J4/J5
NSC FOR JMELINE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID EAGR AORC EFIN IZ WFP
SUBJECT: WFP'S SCHOOL FEEDING EFFORTS IN IRAQ

REF: (A) ROME 002768, (B) ROME 00973, (C) ROME 00936

SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED - PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.
NOT SUITABLE FOR INTERNET POSTING.

-------
Summary
-------

1. (SBU) WFP's school feeding programs in Iraq are ongoing.
During the academic year 2003-2004 in the three northern
governorates, WFP provided technical assistance to the local
authorities to guarantee a smooth continuation of school
feeding activities targeting over 700,000 students.
Between March and May, in the center/south of Iraq, WFP
carried out a pilot school-feeding project benefiting
105,000 students, in collaboration with the Ministry of
Health (MOH) and Ministry of Education (MOE). WFP has now
issued an Emergency Appeal (July 2004-June 2005, valued at
U.S. $54.1 million) targeted to primary school children and
vulnerable groups. US Mission is strongly supportive of this
undertaking. For the longer-term, in our view, debt relief
could be a key element in the resuscitation of Iraq's
primary education sector. End summary.

----------
Background
----------

2. (U) By the end of the 1970s, Iraq was one of the
wealthiest and most developed countries in the Middle East
with a thriving economy sustained by sales from large oil
reserves. Social investments by the Government from 1975-
1985 raised the standard of living and improved the
country's social sectors. Iraq had one of the best education
systems in the region with respect to both access and
quality: education was free at all levels, and all necessary
teaching and learning materials were provided. After the
Iran-Iraq War the quality of education began to deteriorate
and after the 1990-91 Gulf War, it decreased dramatically.

3. (U) By 2000, only 76.3 percent of children aged 6-11 were
attending primary school despite the fact that primary
education was compulsory. In rural areas, less than 50
percent of girls were attending school compared to 80
percent in urban areas. Dropout rates for primary school
children nearly doubled over the 20-year period from
1978-1998, and more than doubled for girls. In the
2000/2001 academic year, the number of children in the sixth
class was only 45 percent of the number of children in the
first class.

--------------------------------------------- --------
WFP efforts in school feeding from April 2003 onwards
--------------------------------------------- --------

4. (U) During the academic year 2003-2004 in the three
northern governorates, WFP provided technical assistance to
the local authorities to guarantee a smooth continuation of
school feeding activities targeting over 700,000 students.
WFP will continue provision of High Energy Biscuits for
distribution to school children and technical assistance to
the authorities in the north until the end of 2004.

5. (U) Between March and May, in the center/south of Iraq,
WFP carried out a pilot school-feeding project benefiting
105,000 students, in collaboration with the Ministry of
Health (MOH) and Ministry of Education (MOE). MOH and MOE
staff visited school feeding projects in Egypt and Chile to
study the possibility of replicating best practices. A
survey to assess the efficacy of the school program is


ongoing. The final report is expected in August.

--------------------------------------
WFP complementary "safety-net" efforts
--------------------------------------

6. (U) WFP is also collaborating with World Health
Organization (WHO), Ministry of Trade (MOT), Ministry of
Health/Nutrition Research Institute (MOH/NRI) and UNICEF on
a Wheat Flour Fortification program. The stakeholders
presented in March an action plan to the Wheat Flour
Fortification National Committee in Baghdad. The plan,
covering the period 2004-2007, aims at enabling the
production of fortified wheat flour in all 177 existing
mills by end of 2005. This would help reduce the prevalence
of iron deficiency anemia in women. It is expected also to
reduce `Neural Tube' birth defects. Results of the plan will
be measured through monitoring. A comprehensive household
survey on consumption of fortified wheat is planned for
2007.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
The WFP Multi-Agency School Feeding Assessment-August 2003
--------------------------------------------- -------------

7. (U) WFP conducted with UNICEF a school feeding assessment
for Iraq August 4-15, 2003. Results were as follows:

a. There was a great deal of interest on the part of
Ministry officials, school administrators, teachers and
parents for an integrated school-feeding program. There was
general recognition that school feeding can help to increase
enrollment and attendance; improve children's capacity to
concentrate and assimilate information by relieving short-
term hunger and contribute to both the improvement of
children's nutrition and possibly their academic
performance.

b. Moreover, there was support and recognition of the need
for nutrition, health and sanitation education and, in some
areas of the country, a deworming program. The Ministry
officials interviewed were unanimous in their support for a
program with 100 percent coverage of primary school
children. When the mission team suggested that the program
target the vulnerable geographic areas of the country, the
response was that even wealthy countries have school feeding
programs, why should Iraq, potentially a wealthy country, be
any different. Many of the Ministry officials, teachers and
parents referenced a small-scale school-feeding program that
was implemented from 1979-82 and provided cheese, eggs,
fruit and milk for all primary school children.

c. The Iraqis interviewed said that they wanted a high
quality school feeding program with fresh produce provided
not only for children in primary schools, but also for those
in kindergartens, literacy classes, schools for the
handicapped, and boarding schools. They also felt that
teachers and cleaning staff should be provided food at the
schools.

d. The mission team agreed that a school meal program should
be national in scope and involve a menu more comprehensive
and varied than biscuits, utilizing fresh foods. The team
also feels that the program in the longer term should
generate business and employment opportunities for Iraqis.

e. Feasible options are limited, however, by security
constraints, the current lack of trained staff, the
inadequacy of the primary school infrastructure (in terms of
water, electricity, kitchens, cold storage, etc.), and the
reduced school day (children are in school for 4 rather than

6 hours/day as a result of double and triple shifts and
other factors). The mission team therefore recommended
beginning with a pilot "biscuit and drink" program, targeted
to specific areas of the country and not heavily reliant on
school infrastructure.

--------------------------------------------- -------------
WFP Assistance to vulnerable groups program July 2004- end
June 2005 - Emergency Operation (EMOP) 10360.0 "Assistance
to Primary School Children and Vulnerable Groups
--------------------------------------------- -------------

8. (U) WFP has just finalized a new EMOP that takes into
consideration the security environment and the absence of
United Nations international staff in-country. This project
is intended to provide targeted food aid to primary school
children, malnourished children, pregnant and lactating
mothers, as well as the chronically sick in particularly
vulnerable districts. The food aid will be complemented with
training and capacity building in food security and
vulnerability analysis.

9. (U) Assistance will be provided for an initial period of
one year to 972,800 primary school children, 350,250
pregnant and lactating women, 223,200 malnourished children
and their families, and 6,400 tuberculosis patients. WFP
will also assist in building the capacity of Iraqi
institutions to monitor and analyze food security indicators
and design appropriate responses. Note. In addition to
numbers above, there are an estimated 770,000 primary school
children in the three Northern Governorates of Erbil, Dohuk
and Suleymaniyeh whose schools will be supported with
provision of biscuits for the first semester of school year
2004-2005. End Note. The program, valued at US $54.2 million
- covers the period July 2004-June 2005.

10. (U) The objectives of the vulnerable group project will
be to:

a. Increase enrollment and regular attendance of children,
in particular girls, in primary schools;
b. Increase attendance of malnourished children and pregnant
and lactating women at local healthcare facilities;
c. Improve the nutritional status of malnourished children
and pregnant and lactating women;
d. Secure regular attendance of tuberculosis patients
enrolled in the National Program at local healthcare
facilities;
e. Improve the knowledge and daily practices of mothers and
caretakers of young children on appropriate feeding
practices;
f. Improve Iraqi institutional capacity in monitoring and
analyzing food security.

----------------------------
Comment from Ambassador Hall
----------------------------

11. (SBU) This EMOP deserves our full support. In the
longer-term, in addition to traditional sources of funding
(McGovern-Dole, PL 480 Title II, ESF, etc), Iraq owes the
U.S. Department of Agriculture approximately U.S. $4 billion
on defaulted General Sales Manager (GSM) credit guarantee
loans and interest dating back to 1991. While the Paris Club
discussions might be protracted, and a number of
complications could arise, the development of a national
school feeding effort (that inter alia could involve
imported products) might be a reasonable quid-pro-quo for
debt forgiveness. WFP has vast experience in school feeding
endeavors and a solid track record in Iraq. Debt relief
could be a key element in the resuscitation of Iraq's


primary education sector.

12. (U) Baghdad minimize considered. Hall


NNNN
2004ROME02933 - Classification: UNCLASSIFIED

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