South Sudan: Feeding the minds of the future
WFP’s school meals encourage enrollment and increase attendance
By Marwa Awad
With the new school year in South Sudan just around the corner, the World Food Programme (WFP) is scaling up its school feeding programme in over 1,100 schools to reach nearly 600,000 children — including 60,000 refugees.
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, an estimated two million children in the world’s youngest nation had their education disrupted and hundreds of thousands also missed out on daily nutritious school meals.
Partly funded by the Federal Republic of Germany through the KfW Development Bank, WFP’s school meals programme incentivizes parents to enroll their children in school and increases attendance levels by ensuring each child has access to a daily nutritious meal.
Nowhere is the integration of humanitarian relief, development aid and peacebuilding more apparent than in school feeding programmes. Ensuring steady enrollment in school and facilitating learning in the classroom constitutes the very foundation for peace and security, as well as economic potential.
As the fundamental building block for the future of any nation, a child’s chance of maturing into a productive, civically active, and responsible member of society increases when they finish their education and achieve their dreams.
“At WFP, we believe that school meals are more than a plate of food. School meals programmes not only support education but also the economy as they support local agriculture, transform the country’s food systems, make communities more resilient and promote gender equality,” says Matthew Hollingworth, WFP’s Country Director in South Sudan.
With more than 70 percent of South Sudan’s population predicted to face extreme hunger in 2022, WFP’s school meals offer families a community-level social safety net. When facing economic hardship, millions of families may find preparing a meal for their child a challenge. Each meal provided at school is one less meal for parents to provide at home.
WFP works with UNICEF and local partners in South Sudan to raise awareness amongst parents and children of the importance of education and a nutritious meal during the school day. A daily meal of sorghum or maize and beans freshly prepared at school helps to keep children in school and enables them to focus on learning.
Ten-year-old Aluel Deng, a girl as young as her newly founded nation, knows this first-hand. She dreams of finishing her education and growing up to become a doctor so she can help heal the sick in her community in Aweil Town. She explains how the daily meal makes a difference for her:
“The meal helps me to feel less hungry and I can learn better in class and play with my friends after school,” she says.
While UNICEF supports the building of school infrastructures such as classrooms, latrines, and boreholes to help facilitate children’s learning experience, WFP builds kitchens and food storage areas to provide a safe space for storing and cooking food.
Schools and education are the foundation from which South Sudan can build a cohesive social fabric and reduce poverty. Classrooms offer children a safe and inclusive environment while playgrounds are where life-long friendships are formed.
WFP’s school meals are helping to support children who may one day become leaders, innovators, thinkers, agents of peace and the healers of tomorrow.