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In every home where school age children are present, the morning is hectic and rushed! In Dera, Ethiopia, mothers rise early to prepare their children’s breakfast and pack their lunch boxes. Usually, the meal planning, and preparation starts the day before. The type of lunch children take to school might vary, depending on the economic level of the family, but every family makes sure their children have something to eat during the school day. Nutrition plays a pivotal role in children’s development. Well-nourished children are healthy. They can focus and actively engage in their classes. They are also better able to play and interact with their friends. A growing hunger gap The cumulative effect of the food crisis, conflict and inflation has destabilized the way families provide for their children. It has put children at the forefront of food scarcity which in turn affects their education and overall development. According to the World Food Program (WFP), food insecurity and malnutrition is a major concern for Ethiopia, with estimated 20.4 million people needing food support. At the ET0424 Dera Full Gospel Church Center, the effect of inflation and the food crisis is manifested in the form of children missing school. Sometimes, children come to school with a small amount of food, just something to curb the hunger pangs, or with nothing at all. At the church-run school that serves children from kindergarten to grade four, most of the students are registered with the Compassion center. The soaring price of food is choking most families’ budgets. The gap between what they earn and what their money can buy is becoming wider by the day. Most families are forced to choose which meal to cut out of the day—breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Caregivers at the center are struggling to keep packing lunch for their children. And often, no lunchbox means no school for most of the children. When teachers and the center staff saw a pattern in the declining school attendance and the children’s overall health caused by the food shortage, they knew they had to intervene. Bayush, ET0424 center director, said, “Teachers reported to us the number of children who were missing school regularly. They tried to buy lunch for those who didn’t bring anything from their own pockets. However, when that became too much, they brought those children to our office. The number kept increasing. We knew we had to do something quick.” Bold steps that filled classrooms To mitigate the food crisis, Compassion centers in Ethiopia have been responding in various measures using the Disaster Fund, Child Protection Response (CPR) and the support fund. The staff at ET0424 prayed and brainstormed before they gathered the caregivers of almost 100 children who attended school in the church compound to understand the depth of their struggle. What the caregivers disclosed jolted them into action. “We vowed to do all we can for our children in the center,” said Bayush. “No child should worry about missing school because they don’t have lunch. These little children deserve to be in school. They deserve to thrive.” In consultation with their program facilitator, the staff took a bold step. Using the support fund, they decided to prepare and pack lunch for every child at the center. The response of the mothers when they learned the center’s plan was equally stunning. As a way of showing their gratitude, the mothers offered to cook the food themselves. The center staff as well as the mothers are working hard to make sure every child comes to school and has something to eat. Mothers come to the center early in the morning, according to their schedule, to start the lunch preparation. The aroma of freshly cooked food fills the air as mothers hurry to make everything ready before the children break for lunch. Now, the children look forward to going to school every morning. “Our reward is seeing the smiley faces of children when they run to the center for their lunchboxes,” said Bayush. “Children are happy and thriving.”

Featured Client:

Compassion International

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