School is officially back in session in Mauritania. To mark this occasion, His Excellency President Mohamed Ould Ghazouani and First Lady Mariéme Mohamed Vadhel visited Mbout Edebay Extension (MEE) school on November 16, 2020. MEE is located in the Gorgol region of Mauritania, which is about eight hours away from the capital Nouakchott. This school is among 209 primary schools in Mauritania that benefit from the Future is Ours, a McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and implemented by Counterpart International.
Among the attendees were eight Ministers; Inger Tangborn, the Deputy Mission Director at the U.S. Embassy; the Director of School and Health Nutrition at the Ministry of Education; leaders from the Gorgol region; and around 500 students with their parents.
November 16th also marks the launch of school feeding at the MEE school under the McGovern-Dole program, which aims to improve student attendance rates by providing nutritious daily school meals. The program’s goal is also to enhance health and strengthen the primary education system. With the implementation of the Future is Ours project, children at MEE school are able to access school meals for the first time since it opened in 2017. With the generous donation of rice, peas, lentils, and oil from USDA, volunteer school cooks prepared riz à la sauce de petit pois et de lentilles (rice with peas and lentil sauce).
Approximately 700,000 students are registered in primary schools in the country and 18 percent of them will benefit from the McGovern-Dole program during the 2020-2021 school year.
In his welcome speech to the President and his delegation, the Mayor of Mbout, Mr. Adama Sy, asked His Excellency to extend school feeding in the 118 schools of Mbout subdivision. During the event, the Minister of Education, His Excellency Mohamed Melainine Ould Eyih, expressed gratitude to USDA and Counterpart, saying, “The number of students who will benefit from school canteens this year will increase to 136,198 beneficiaries because of adding 400 million MRU to the ministry’s budget and because of USDA funding of the McGovern-Dole program of $22.5 million. I thank them very much for this support.”
Congratulations to you. The canteen is an excellent initiative for children, especially girls.”
– First Lady Mariéme Mohamed Vadhel
The President and his delegation were briefed on the McGovern-Dole program by Counterpart staff during the visit. The President and First Lady also visited the storeroom stacked with imported USDA commodities.
In an interview ahead of the President’s visit, HE Mohamed Malainine Ould Eyih, Minister of Education, said, “We expect this program to solve a few issues. First of all, it will have a positive impact on the students’ learning capacity since the food that will be provided through the canteens will improve their health and help them focus more on learning, Secondly, food provided at school will save a lot of students the effort and time to go home to eat and come back, which will have a great impact on student attendance. The program will also ensure the sustainability of student attendance, since many of them usually drop off because of unhealthy conditions caused by the lack of proper nutrition.”
He added, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank USDA for this important funding. I would also like to thank Counterpart International for the implementation of the program in these regions during the difficult conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and for launching the canteen during the President’s visit.”
About the USDA McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program in Mauritania
Counterpart International and a team of local partners (ARED, EcoDev, and ONG Actions) are implementing the USDA funded five-year program (2019 – 2024) – The Future is Ours – to assist the Government of Mauritania to reduce hunger, improve health, and strengthen the primary education system. Implemented in Brakna and Gorgol, the program will serve 209 schools through integrated activities aligned with national education and health policies.