Case study

A biscuit a day...

Providing school children in Afghanistan with the nutrition they need

Full of energy: 10-year-old Zarafshan tucks into a biscuit. Picture: WFP
Full of energy: 10-year-old Zarafshan tucks into a biscuit. Picture: WFP

On 12 August, Prime Minister David Cameron and Vice President Michel Temer of Brazil will challenge global leaders to step up efforts to improve nutrition and reduce the rate of stunting among the world’s poorest children between now and the next Olympics in 2016.

The Global Hunger Event will help to strengthen these commitments by identifying pioneering new ways of working to tackle malnutrition and bringing in new champions to support the global movement.

Read our case study below to find out how a simple biscuit has already helped 1.4 million children in 24 Afghan provinces get the nutrition and education they need.

Taking the biscuit

Zarafshan, 10, sits down at her desk, takes a bite of a high-energy biscuit and smiles.

Thanks to UK aid, around 400,000 schoolchildren like her in some of the most remote and poorest provinces of Afghanistan are being encouraged to attend school through the provision of high-energy biscuits.

Zarafshan, who attends secondary school in Zamankor Village, in Panjsher Province, is a fan. 

“I love receiving the biscuit in the morning every day,” she says. “They give us energy and if we don’t eat these biscuits we will get hungry.” 

The kids are alright

Her schoolmates have also given the biscuits the seal of approval.  

Amjad Khan, 10, says: ”When I eat the biscuit it gives me energy. I can run faster and can learn better.” And Faisal, nine, adds: “I love the fact they are so tasty. If we don’t eat the biscuits during school time, we get hungry.” 

The specially manufactured biscuits Zarafshan, Amjid and Faisal are eating will boost the nutrition levels of children in areas which don’t always have a reliable source of food. 

This programme is also expected to have a positive impact on the attendance of girls in school - ensuring that areas which suffer from poor education standards do not see a further decline. 

Children in the schools receive a 100 gram packet of the biscuits each day they attend school. The high energy biscuits are wheat-based, supply 450 kcal of energy and 10-15 grams of protein per 100 gram serving, and are also fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. 

Preventing malnutrition

The £7m programme, delivered through the World Food Programme, will help Afghanistan tackle its very high malnutrition rates: 59% of children aged five and under are moderately or severely stunted which means they’re too short for their age. It’s a disadvantage they can never recover from. And 39% of children under five are moderately to severely underweight - too thin for their height. 

In general, under-nutrition impairs brain development during the early years and can contribute to lower learning ability later in life, making it a serious condition. 

Meanwhile, many children still find it difficult to get a good education, especially in remote rural areas. School feeding supports primary education and is designed to promote enrolment and attendance, particularly for girls, at targeted schools in food insecure districts. 

The next generation

The World Food Programme’s Food for Education programme will help to improve school attendance rates by encouraging families to send their young children to school, knowing they will get a snack which is packed full of nutrients to keep them going throughout the school day. 

One survey, the 2007-2008 National Risk and Vulnerability Assessment, found that 7.4 million people - nearly a third of the population - are unable to get enough food to live active, healthy lives. Another 8.5 million people, or 37%, are on the borderline of food insecurity. Around 400,000 people each year are seriously affected by natural disasters, such as droughts, floods, earthquakes or extreme weather conditions. 

But with the help of these biscuits, there is the chance for some of the next generation to grow up with a more nutritious diet than their parents.

Published 6 August 2012