Seny’s journey to a new life
After Ebola, schools and school meals bring solace and hope to thousands of children in Guinea
For two years, Guinea was hit hard by the Ebola epidemic, which killed some 2,500 and infected more than 3,800 people. The outbreak had a devastating impact on thousands of families and led the country to a state of panic.
In the Nzerekoré region, believed by researchers to be the starting-point of the epidemic, WFP’s school meals were halted as schools were closed. Farmers were affected because they couldn’t cultivate their fields or harvest/sell their crops. Many villages across the region were abandoned as populations fled to save their lives.
When school meals resumed in October 2015, WFP expanded its school meals activities, including in Nzerekoré region to support children and their families, especially those who were heavily affected.
One of these families is Seny Lamah’s family, from Samoué village, in Nzerekoré.
A NEW HOME. A NEW SCHOOL EXPERIENCE
Seny Lamah is 11 years old and she is in 2nd grade at Samoué’s elementary school. She lives with her mother, Gobou Doré and her three sisters in a house situated a few blocks away from her school. Seny lost her father to Ebola.
In an effort to lessen the trauma of losing close family members, people recount how younger children were not told that their fathers died from Ebola; other male family members would step in to play the role of a father.
This is the first time since the outbreak of the epidemic that Seny and her family can settle in a place they can call home again. When Seny’s father died, the family was forced to move from place to place. The stigma that followed the people affected by Ebola was a heavy burden for the whole family.
“Last year my daughter was in a school that wasn’t supported by WFP and it was very hard for all of us. Now, Seny can eat at school and she can focus better in class,” says Gobou.
Asked if she likes school and about her dreams, Seny says: “I want to become a doctor in the future. I want to save lives.”
Apart from the regular school meals offered 4 times per week, WFP has targeted schools in Seny’s region to support girls and their families, in an effort to help girls enroll and stay in school. Each girl, receives 5 liters of oil three times a year — during Easter and Christmas breaks and at the end of the school year.
This support has been a relief to Gobou and her family during times of distress and it also encouraged her to keep Seny in school.
TOWARDS A BETTER FUTURE
Located in the middle of a dense vegetation, Samoué elementary school is a bridge to a better future for hundreds of children. 296 children are registered in the school of which, 157 are girls.
“The number of registrations has increased a lot since the end of the epidemic. We see parents that refused to register their children before, now running to register them,” says Séni Tongonamou, the principal of the school.
One of the factors which led to this increase is WFP’s school meals. They are a lifeline for many children and their families.
In her classroom, Seyni is focused and attentive to her teacher’s instructions. After all she has been through, going to school like every other child brings back a sense of normality.
I am happy to go to school and learn new things. Also the food we eat is delicious,” says Seny with a smile.
WFP needs urgent funding to continue its traditional and home-grown school meals (meals made from locally produced food) for this school year in Guinea. US$5 million is required to support 111,000 children for the 2016/2017 school year.
Due to financial constraints, WFP had to reduce its school meals from 5 meals to 4 meals per week, and it has not been able to distribute full and frequent take-home rations to girls and their families.
WFP’s key supporter of the home-grown school meals, take-home food rations and Purchase for progress (rice purchased for school meals) programmes is the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
FOOTNOTES: Story and photos by Simon Pierre Diouf/WFP.