MADAGASCAR: Salesian Feeding Programs Provides Free Lunch to 300 Children Each Day
(MissionNewsire) Salesian Sisters working with Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in Betafo, a town of 30,000 people surrounded by hills in the Central Highlands of Madagascar, provide a nursery school, elementary school, professional center, oratory and two boarding houses, one for the girls attending the professional center and the other for those who attend the Salesian high school nearby.
The Salesian primary school welcomes more than 700 students, mostly girls who have little resources or a chance for an education. Every day nearly 300 of the children have their lunch provided to them by the Salesian Sisters. Nearly 2.5 tons of rice, the main meal, are provided to students in need each month. For some, this is the only meal they will have each day. The meals provide proper nutrition for the students and serve as an incentive for families to send their children to school.
As a result of the feeding programs, students are thriving. Many have gained weight, suffered fewer illnesses and become more focused on their studies. Teachers are seeing better student performance in class, a decrease in absenteeism and an increase in program enrollment rates as a result of the feeding program.
“Feeding programs are a necessity to meet the needs of the massive number of children around the globe who are hungry today,” Father Mark Hyde, executive director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “Meals children receive at Salesian schools may be their only meals. This food not only encourages them to attend school, it allows them to focus on getting the education they need without worrying about where their next meal will come from. Children cannot learn on an empty stomach.”
Madagascar, an island in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East Africa, is one of the poorest countries in the world. Seventy percent of Madagascar’s almost 19 million people live in poverty with 5.7 million of those youth between the ages of 10 and 24 years, according to UNICEF. This number is expected to double by 2025. Due to Madagascar’s poverty, geography and an ongoing political crisis, the country is ranked 143rd out of the 177 countries classified by the human development index of the United Nations Development Program. Women and children in the country are particularly vulnerable to the effects of poverty.
For close to 80 percent of the country’s inhabitants who live in rural areas and practice subsistence farming, living conditions have been steadily declining in recent years, particularly when it comes to access to transportation, health services, education and markets. Because of the lack of hygiene and access to safe drinking water coupled with chronic malnutrition, people in Madagascar often suffer from respiratory ailments, tuberculosis and hepatitis.
In order to help youth break the cycle of poverty and hopelessness, Salesian missionaries in Madagascar operate elementary, middle and high schools throughout the country. The focus of the schools is on providing educational opportunities, increasing literacy and laying a foundation for education well past the compulsory education required in the country. Access to education and training in social and life skills encourages young students to find livable wage employment, breaking the cycle of poverty.
UNICEF – Madagascar