Milk for schoolchildren – a future investment

Milk for schoolchildren – a future investment

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The 31st President of the United States of America, Herbert Hoover  once claimed “if we could  have  but one generation of properly  born, trained, educated, and  healthy children, a thousand other  problems of government would vanish.”

The overall health of the future  generation is such a crucial  factor for any country. Especially for a developing country like Sri Lanka, the future  generations are hugely important.

Malnutrition has been a persistent problem in Sri Lanka, despite some health indicators tending to suggest that Sri Lanka is performing alright.  It was due to this issue that  the National Nutritional  Policy was introduced

in 2010, but the country’s nutritional status has not been in great level, according to the Sri Lanka

Demographic and  Health  Survey in the last few years.

In fact, the health authorities had  indicated that  malnutrition among schoolchildren, and  their poor nutritional status, have  been the main  reasons for most of the health problems, while it has also been revealed that  not taking  healthy food, and  parents not being  able  to provide  enough meals have  been problematic too. So, the need to change this around was a dying need of this Nation, if Sri Lanka is to have  a healthy next generation, who would hopefully  take  the country to new levels.

The Government, having  recognised this, is set to launch a national programme under  President Maithripala

Sirisena’s concept of ‘nutritious young  generation of a Nation  bountiful with milk.’

The Grama  Shakthi  People’s Movement, which is conducting this programme, aims to provide  a pack  of milk to schoolchildren from a selected set of schools. They are targeting 1.7 million schoolchildren.

The whole  idea  of this programme is to provide  enough milk and  nutrition  for the children  at school, in order  to produce a healthy next generation, and  the Government has understood the importance of liquid milk.

One pack  of milk is valued  at Rs 21, which means that  this programme would spend a yearly amount of Rs 6.7 billion on 1.7 million schoolchildren.

India, which is considered the world’s largest milk producer, has always opted for liquid milk, while Sri Lanka, for some reason, has mostly prioritised milk powder from New Zealand and  Australia. But these two countries very rarely use milk powder. President Maithripala Sirisena, however, has made it very clear  that  he is not supportive of milk powder at all.

“No matter who says what, powdered milk is not suitable for human consumption. These are made by multinational companies. When I say these things, they will get angry with me. Everyone  is angry with me these days; drug barons, tobacco companies, fraudulent pharmaceutical companies. They are all upset with me. But no matter who gets angry with me, these things must be said. For a country to develop, local milk production must increase.”

“When I was going  to school, when  I was about 15 years old, we had  milk from the cow that  was brought up at home. When we woke up, I used to take  a tin and  milk the cow. We used to refer to the cow as ‘milk mother.’ It was only after  I milked the cow and  handed over the tin to my mother, that  I would go to school. If we work according to the whims of these milk powder companies, then  that  is wrong.  I was Health  Minister for five years and  representatives of milk powder companies came after  me then, but I never  allowed them to come even  inside the gate of my home. I never  allowed them to come to my Ministry. That was how I worked,” the President said.

Ministry of Education, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, Nutrition and  Indigenous Medicine, Ministry

of Fisheries and  Aquatic  Resources Development and  Rural Economic Affairs have  also joined hands, in order to make this programme a success, while one of the main  targets of this programme is to make Sri Lanka self- sufficient in liquid milk by 2025.  It is also observed that  the dairy industry in Sri Lanka doesn’t seem to

produce enough liquid milk at the moment. In fact, at present, the dairy industry produces around 900,000 litres, but still there is less demand, with this programme alone  requiring  63,000 litres, in order  to cover  the primary  section of each and  every school. Yet, one expects that  this particular programme could  create a demand for liquid milk, as well as for the dairy industry in Sri Lanka.

The special focus on the schoolchildren is a commendable act, and  they certainly are the future  of this country. As Herbert Hoover  said, having  a healthy next generation could  find solutions for thousands of problems the country is facing  now.

G.H.M. Amarasinghe

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