Good morning. I am pleased to be here this morning to announce the launch of the McGovern – Dole School Feeding Program in Côte d’Ivoire, which will be implemented by the World Food Programme. The $31 million (18.6 billion CFA) five-year program (2016- 2020) is expected to provide 18 million nutritious lunches to 150,000 students in 1,000 rural public primary schools in seven regions: Cavally, Bafing, Bagoue, Poro and Tchologo, Bounkani and Gontougo. The key objective of the McGovern-Dole Program is to reduce hunger and improve literacy and primary education, especially for girls.
Sixty-two million girls around the world – half of whom are adolescent – are not in school. These girls have diminished economic opportunities and are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, early and forced marriage, and other forms of violence. Yet when a girl receives a quality education, she is more likely to earn a decent living, raise a healthy, educated family, and improve the quality of life for herself, her family, and her community. In addition, girls’ attendance in secondary school is correlated with later marriage, later childbearing, lower maternal and infant mortality rates, lower birth rates, and lower rates of HIV/AIDS. A World Bank study found that every year of secondary school education is correlated with an 18 percent increase in a girl’s future earning power.
Today, I am delighted to announce that through the McGovern-Dole program, the United States will support keeping girls in school in Côte d’Ivoire. Girls in fifth and sixth grade in three regions (Bagoue, Poro, and Tchologo) who obtain at least an 80 percent monthly attendance rate will receive a take-home ration of 50 kilograms of rice three times a year. Keeping girls, and all children, in school is crucial for your country’s future, especially as you work towards becoming an emerging economy by 2020.
McGovern-Dole programs help boost school enrollment and academic performance by providing school meals, teacher training, and related support. At the same time, the program focuses on improving children’s health and learning capacity before they enter school by offering nutrition programs for pregnant and nursing women, infants, and preschoolers.
This program is the newest item in the basket of nutritional support we already provide to Côte d’Ivoire. Through USAID, the PEPFAR program has supported nutritional programs for orphans and vulnerable children and persons living with HIV in Côte d’Ivoire. These activities have included emergency food provisions, nutritional assessment and counseling, and procurement of fortified foods for HIV-positive individuals. USAID also partners with other donors and the Government of Cote d’Ivoire to support the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Initiative in Côte d’Ivoire. Finally, USAID, in partnership with the World Food Programme, also provides food as part of a package of services to support refugee repatriation in the western part of the country.
I am pleased that the World Food Programme, which has several decades of experience managing the implementation of school feeding programs around the world, was selected to manage the McGovern-Dole Program in Côte d’Ivoire. The United States remains committed to working with the Government of Côte d’Ivoire and its people to improve the livelihood of all, and especially school children, who are the country’s future leaders.