Today, the Ministry of Preschool Education signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the U.S.-based Mercy Corps and the Sanitary-Epidemiological Welfare and Public Health Service under the Ministry of Health to cooperate on the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program in Uzbekistan funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
The $21.5 million program will provide school meals for more than 400 preschools and additional infrastructure improvements for 245 rural and under-resourced preschools in the Karakalpakstan and Surkhandarya regions to improve nutrition and learning outcomes for 90,000 children.
This important three-party agreement formalizes the partnership between the Government of Uzbekistan and Mercy Corps, an international non-governmental organization, to improve preschool attendance by providing daily school meals, improving literacy, training teachers and nurses, and making critical renovations to preschools including classrooms, kitchens, and latrines. Aligned with Uzbekistan’s commitment to improve preschool education, the program will support the government’s Education Sector Plan (2019-2023) to expand access to quality pre-primary education for children aged 3-7. This also supports President Mirziyoyev’s declaration of 2021 as the Year of Youth and Improvement of Public Health, to bring attention to the importance of building a young, healthy generation for the future of the country.
To ensure children are physically, nutritionally, and cognitively fit to succeed in school, the program will also increase awareness around nutrition, health, and hygiene best practices, as well as safe food preparation within preschools. This is particularly important in light of the negative impact COVID-19 has had on children’s education in Uzbekistan and around the world. To prevent the spread of communicable diseases at the school level, the program will install hand-washing stations in preschools and train preschool teachers, nurses, and cooks on proper sanitation and hygiene practices. School meals are also one of the most effective incentives for families to send their children back to school.
“The children of Uzbekistan, as all children of the world, continue to be greatly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That is why inclusion of the Ministry of Health within this partnership gives the opportunity to achieve even greater health and sanitation improvements. Working together, we can ensure that preschoolers stay healthy and safe,” stated U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum.
Finally, the program will engage families and communities to promote the importance of early childhood education and development. Providing students with a strong foundation in reading increases the likelihood of future academic and workforce success. Interventions that reach children before they start primary school—at home and in preschool programs—can set children up for academic success for life.