On July 27, Mercy Corps signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Preschool Education and the Sanitary and Epidemiological Wellbeing and Public Health Service under the Ministry of Health to cooperate within the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Baby Nutrition Program in Uzbekistan, funded by United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
According to the press service of the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan, the program with a budget of more than $21 million provides for the provision of nutritious food for more than 400 preschool educational organizations and the improvement of the infrastructure of additional 245 rural kindergartens in Karakalpakstan and Surkhandarya region with the aim of improving nutrition and education of 90,000 children.
“This important tripartite agreement formalizes the partnership between the government of Uzbekistan and the international nongovernmental organization Mercy Corps aimed at improving the attendance of kindergartens by providing daily nutritious food, increasing the level of literacy, improving the qualifications of personnel and carrying out repair-construction work in kindergartens, including classrooms, kitchens, and water supply and sewerage facilities,” the statement said.
In line with the priorities of the government of Uzbekistan to improve preschool education, the program is guided by the state plan for the development of the education sector (2019-2023) to expand access to quality preschool education for children aged 3 to 7 years. This program is also in line with the priorities outlined by the President of Uzbekistan as part of the announcement of 2021 as the “Year of Supporting Youth and Strengthening Public Health” in order to draw attention to the importance of educating a young, healthy generation for the future of the country.
To ensure the full physical and mental development necessary for the success of children in school, the program also provides for raising awareness of best practices in nutrition, health and hygiene, as well as safe food preparation in preschool educational organizations. This is especially important in light of the negative impact of COVID-19 on children’s education in Uzbekistan and around the world. To prevent the spread of infectious diseases at the kindergarten level, the program includes improving hygiene conditions and training teachers, nurses and cooks in good hygiene standards and practices. Adequate nutrition is also one of the most effective impetus for parents to bring their children back to the educational environment.
“Children of Uzbekistan, like offspring around the world, continue to feel the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaboration with the Ministry of Health on this project provides an opportunity to achieve broader improvements in sanitation and hygiene. Working together, we can ensure the safety and health of preschool children,” U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum said.
The program provides for the involvement of the family and community in the popularization of preschool education and early development. Learning the basics of literacy at an early age increases the likelihood of future academic and professional success. Comprehensive early childhood development interventions – at home and through preschool programs – can prepare children for life-long learning success.