Mary’s Meals to begin feeding Syrian refugee children in Lebanon

Moved by the suffering of Syrian refugees forced to flee their homeland, Mary’s Meals is set to launch our first-ever school feeding programme in the Middle East.

Back to all stories | Posted on 29 February 16 in News

In an initial pilot, funded by players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, we plan to soon begin providing school meals to around 1,000 children at a school in the town of Antelias, located 5km north of Beirut, Lebanon.

With the Syrian Civil War now in its fifth year, there are more than 1.1 million refugees who have crossed the border from Syria into Lebanon. This represents the largest concentration of refugees compared to a country’s population anywhere in the world, and more than 70 percent are living below the poverty line – often unemployed, hungry and surviving in squalid conditions.

Lebanon, which has been placed under great strain by the influx, will become the thirteenth country in which we work. Our other programmes – which today feed 1,101,206 impoverished children every day in their place of education – operate in countries including Malawi, Liberia, Zambia, Kenya, Haiti, India and South Sudan.

Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, our founder and CEO, said: “I’m sure we all feel deep compassion – perhaps even outrage – at the desperate plight of refugees forced to flee from war-torn Syria. As always, it is innocent children who suffer the most."

“For a number of months, we have been investigating how Mary’s Meals can do its small part in alleviating some of the suffering caused by this greatest humanitarian crisis of our time – and I am extremely pleased that, thanks to the support of People’s Postcode Lottery and its players, we will soon begin serving school meals to a small number of Syrian children who have settled in neighbouring Lebanon, as well as to their Lebanese classmates."

“Amid the carnage of the conflict in Syria, Mary’s Meals and its generous supporters can provide a glimmer of hope by attracting Syrian refugee children back into the classroom with a nutritious daily meal – just as we do in other countries around the world, where the introduction of Mary’s Meals results in sharp increases in enrolment, attendance and academic performance.”

The United Nations has warned that the more than two million Syrian children who are out of school are in danger of becoming a ‘lost generation’, with evidence showing that it becomes more and more difficult to get children back into school the longer they are out of it.

Magnus continues: “With 59 million children out of school around the world and many more chronically hungry, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the scale of poverty and suffering. That’s why we always call on our supporters to help us reach the next hungry child waiting for Mary’s Meals."

“When it comes to a terrifying conflict like the one raging today in Syria, the temptation to despair is even greater. But, since every single Syrian child out of school represents a lifetime’s potential under threat, we are determined to do what we can – and we know our supporters will be determined too."

“Like all parents, those Syrian mothers and fathers who had to leave their homes want more than anything for their children to be fed and educated, so they can hope for a future beyond this current misery. This nutritious meal, served every day in a Lebanese school, will allow those children to learn – joining more than 1.1 million other children receiving Mary’s Meals, who are now able to dream of something better.”

The Syrian children receiving Mary’s Meals will be fed and educated alongside Lebanese children, thanks to a “double-shift school system” implemented by the government in Lebanon. This means that local children attend lessons in the morning alongside Syrian children who have adapted well to the Lebanese curriculum, while other Syrian children are educated in the same classrooms during the afternoon.

We are partnering with Dorcas, a Dutch relief organisation which has been working in Lebanon since 2013, to implement the delivery of the programme on the ground, as well as collaborating closely with the country’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education.

As with our other projects – where community engagement, empowerment and ownership is key – the preparation and serving of meals will be supported by volunteers from both the local and refugee communities, who are the parents or relatives of children attending the school.

During this pilot phase – which will see children initially receive healthy and substantial wrap sandwiches filled with various ingredients to suit local tastes – we will work with Dorcas to monitor the impact of the programme on Syrian refugee children and seek to continually make enhancements, with a view to potentially scaling up the intervention to reach more children later in 2016.

We have a long history of responding to humanitarian crises, with the most recent examples being the 2010 Haiti Earthquake, the 2011 Somalia famine and the 2014/15 Ebola crisis in West Africa.

You can read more about our emergency relief programmes here.


Caption:“Syrian primary school children attending catch-up learning classes in Lebanon” photo by Russell Watkins / CC BY 2.0

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