A Scottish food charity set up to help starving children has said it is now feeding 2,279,941 mouths every school day.
Mary’s Meals, which was set up in an Argyll shed and now feeds hungry schoolchildren in some of the world’s poorest countries, said this milestone figure has been reached since funding raised last year helped the charity to expand its work in countries including Haiti, Madagascar and Yemen.
The charity serves nutritious school meals in 20 of the world’s poorest countries, many of which are impacted by conflict and natural disasters.
Despite the positive announcement, the team at Mary’s Meals said the year ahead will not be without its challenges with ongoing conflict in countries where it works, such as Ethiopia, Yemen and South Sudan, and with the cost-of-living crisis hitting families in the UK and overseas.
Executive director Daniel Adams said with food prices expected to rise in many countries, and with conflict and natural disasters continuing, it will make the task of feeding hungry children “both challenging and indispensable”.
Since the start of this year, Mary’s Meals has helped children affected by cyclones in Malawi and Madagascar, as well as children fleeing war in Ethiopia.
The charity has also started serving school meals in Yemen, a country enduring one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world.
Mr Adams said: “It is easy to feel hopeless when faced with so much suffering.
“But every single thing that people do for our mission makes an enormous difference to the children who eat Mary’s Meals and these little acts of love are needed now more than ever before.
“Despite the uncertainty ahead, we remain determined to keep our promise to the 2,279,941 children that we are reaching today, putting our hope in the continued generosity and kindness of all those who believe, like we do, in the importance of attracting children to school through the promise of a daily meal.”
The charity interviewed Abdo, a resident in a village in Tigray, a semi-arid region in Ethiopia, where brutal fighting has been happening over the past 18 months.
The team at Mary’s Meals said Abdo heard from a neighbour that the rebels were looking for his father and that he had hidden with other men in nearby mountains.
Since that day, the boy, aged 11, is said to have had no information about the whereabouts of his parents or the rest of his family.
It means he is now living alone in a temporary camp for internally displaced people in Mekelle, where he eats Mary’s Meals.
Abdo told the charity: “I wish to see peace residing in all places.
“That is what I want and that is what I think about.
“Peace is very important for me to go back to my home village and join my family.
“My hope is for peace.”
Since conflict began in Tigray, Mary’s Meals said it has been able to provide 30,000 people with food aid and hygiene kits.
It costs £15.90 to feed a child with Mary’s Meals for a full school year.