Sri Lanka cricket star on humanitarian mission to Jaffna

[TamilNet, Monday, 01 November 2004, 14:32 GMT]
Sri Lanka's world record wicket-taker Mr.Muttiah Muralitharan, who is on a World Food Program (WPF) sponsored visit to Jaffna Monday said that meals provided to school children in the country's former war zones are one of the best ways to help them catch up on their education. The star cricketer is visiting Jaffna as a humanitarian partner with the United Nations World Food Programme.

Mr. Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's world record wicket-taker, joins WFP's project in Jaffna
Mr. Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's world record wicket-taker, joins WFP's project in Jaffna
Mr. Muttiah Muralitharan, Sri Lanka's world record wicket-taker, joins WFP's project in Jaffna
The World Food Programme (WFP) issued a press release on Muralitharan's visit to Jaffna Monday.

Following are excerpts from the WPF press release:

While making the rounds of WFP's projects in the northern city of Jaffna, "Murali", as he is affectionately known in Sri Lanka and throughout the cricket world, said the plight of school-aged children in areas damaged by war urgently requires the attention and support of the donor community.

" The malnutrition these children are suffering is plain to see," said Mr.Muralitharan." The war robbed them of both their physical development and their education. But the meals they get in school are a godsend. They get the good food they need to fill their stomach and then they can concentrate on their lesions."

Every school day, the WFP provides more than 100,000 children in the northern and eastern parts of Sri Lanka with a mid-morning meal of rice accompanied by lentil porridge or highly nutritious corn-soya blend and supplemented by vegetables. The food motivates them to attend school and enhances their ability to concentrate and learn.

" The best thing we can give children is education. This will equip them when they grow up to become full citizens of their country," added Mr.Muralitharan, who Monday donated 25 sets of cricket playing equipment to schools in the north with WFP feeding programmes. " In today's world, people who can't read and write are a burden to their society".

As a part of his tour of WFP's field projects in the north this week, Mr.Muralitharan is also visiting a nutrition education session for mothers and their infant children near Jaffna city and a food for work project.

A WFP survey released in October 2003 found that between 20 and 25 percent of school-aged children in the north and east suffer from acute malnutrition and one in three are ' wasted', or too thin for their height. The survey showed that, overall malnutrition levels in these regions-where civil war raged for nearly 20 years-are at least twice as high as the national average.

To promote food aid and education, Mr.Muralitharan headed the Sri Lankan leg of an international fund raising event, " Walk the World," co-sponsored by TNT/TPG, the global Dutch based Express, Mail and Logistics Company, and WPF. The event took on 20 June. The world record-breaking cricket bowler led up the five-kilometre walk that ultimately raised nearly US $ 5,000 for the WFP school feeding program in Sri Lanka.

Mr.Muralitharan was named in October as one of Time Magazines' " Asia Heroes," a gallery of 20 Asians who have made a remarkable achievement before the age of 40. Mr.Muralitharan, 32 was selected for this third annual on distinguished Asians because of his " total mastery of the art (of cricket)". Time magazine noted that he " has changed the face of the game (of cricket) and, no less significant, given hope to a nation torn by 21 tears bloody civil war."

 

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