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Norway's prime minister says girls' education can achieve development goals

Norway's prime minister, Erna Solberg,  with WFP director Etharin Cousin discussing food for education
Norway's prime minister, Erna Solberg, with WFP director Etharin Cousin discussing food for education
WFP/Rein Skullerud

Norway's prime minister, Erna Solberg, met this week with Ertharin Cousin, the director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). They discussed the urgent crisis of children, particularly girls, missing out on their education because of conflict.

The Prime Minister is co-chair of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Advocacy Group. The MDG's are eight objectives for reducing hunger, poverty and disease, while improving quality of life around the world. Prime Minister Solberg is putting a special focus on the education of girls for achieving the MDGs.

Solberg says, "Providing education for girls is so closely linked to success in other fields of development. For people and nations to break out of the cycle of poverty, we need to invest in the education of girls and women. We know that when you invest in a girl’s education, she feeds herself, her children, her community and her nation.”

Getting that investment has been difficult. Many relief and development missions are low on funding. Food for education programs cannot go forward as planned. Girls from impoverished families are far less likely to attend school if there is no incentive of food. There are currently 33 million fewer girls than boys enrolled in primary school worldwide.

With many children still dropping out of school early, it is placing the goal of universal education out of reach. A UN report says, "Early school leaving remains persistent. Among the 137 million children who entered first grade in 2011, 34 million are likely to leave before reaching the last grade of primary school."

WFP has a program called food for education which helps keep children in school by providing rations. The food is provided in class or for take-home. It's a vital program for improving education rates while reducing malnutrition. The program can only go as far as donors allow. WFP relies entirely on these voluntary contributions.

At the meeting the Prime Minister also announced a donation to WFP's emergency mission in South Sudan. Norway is a major donor, having moved up to the 9th highest in 2013.

WFP's director Etharin Cousin says. “Each year, Norway contributes to our operations around the globe through a Strategic Partnership Agreement that gives us flexible, predictable as well as reliable funding. This allows us to react in a timely manner to some of the world’s major crises in Central African Republic, South Sudan and Syria. We are both proud and grateful to partner with Norway, whose leadership is truly inspiring."