By Rose Ogola, UN World Food Programme
School meals from the UN World Food Programme feed more than 11 million children in Africa each year. One of those children is a teenager called Molly Achieng, a 13-year old schoolgirl from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
We in the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) first got to know Molly when she agreed to take part in a filming project designed to give viewers an insight into the life of a teenager in Mathare, one of the capital’s largest shanty towns. The idea was that she would take a small video camera around with her and shoot whatever she liked: her classmates, her home, the place where she lives.
In Mathare where Molly lives, life is difficult. Most houses are made of old iron sheets or wooden boards on earthen floors. Sanitation is rudimentary with as many as 10 shacks sharing a bathroom and latrine. There is no running water in the houses and people have to fetch water from communal taps serving hundreds of people. Getting food is a challenge for most of the people and many children, especially girls, have to work to help put a meal on the family table.
The school Molly attends is part of the school meals programme run jointly by WFP and the Government of Kenya. Under this initiative, daily hot meals are served to some 1.3 million children in Nairobi’s slums and in the arid- and semi-arid areas of Kenya. School meals provide an important safety net for vulnerable children in food-insecure environments. For many of them, the school lunch is the only meal they can count on during the day. Typically, it will consist of beans and maize or split peas and bulgur wheat. Not only does it fill their stomach, it also helps ensure that children attend school and can concentrate in class.
Molly’s story is at the heart of our campaign to commemorate World Food Day this year. The footage Molly took over the course of a few months was edited together at WFP’s headquarters in Rome to produce the first episode of Molly’s World. A further five episodes followed and all were uploaded to You Tube.
Since then, they have been viewed by many more people than either WFP or Molly herself could ever have imagined. The films offer a rare glimpse into a world that many viewers would never otherwise see and Molly’s curiosity about the world, her sense of fun, and above all her warmth and humanity have won the hearts of many people around the world.
Molly’s story is one of hope and inspiration, but there is still a lot of work to be done in the fight against hunger. Millions of people do not have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives.
We are the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide. In emergencies, we get food to where it is needed, saving the lives of victims of war, civil conflict and natural disasters. After the cause of an emergency has passed, we use food to help communities rebuild their shattered lives.
We work with partners, including Australia through its aid program, to help achieve our objectives. In the past two years alone, Australian funds helped to feed more than 5.5 million vulnerable people; and in 2011-12, Australian funds supported 68 WFP operations, in 37 countries and 2 regions (Sahel and Central America). The Australian aid program also provides support to WFP to respond to humanitarian crises, helping provide food assistance to more than 2 million vulnerable people in in the Sahel, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
In addition to responding to emergencies, we also work to prevent hunger in the future. We do this through programmes that use food as a means to build assets, spread knowledge and nurture stronger, more dynamic communities. One example is the school meals programme at Molly’s school. If children are not hungry they will also concentrate better on their lessons, and with a solid education growing children have a better chance of finding their own way out of hunger.
On World Food Day, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate our achievements, recognise the challenges millions of people face in their struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty, and take whatever action we can to help children like Molly build better futures.
You can also watch this video on YouTube.
Agricultural cooperatives are the focus of World Food Day 2012.For more information, visit the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations website.
About the author: Rose Ogola
Rose joined WFP in 2009 and is currently Public Information Officer for Kenya.