South Sudan celebrates school feeding day

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South Sudan celebrates school feeding day
South Sudan celebrates school feeding day

Africa-Press – South-Sudan. The South Sudanese government, in collaboration with UN agencies and donor communities, marked the African Day of School Feeding on Friday. The event, organized by the UN World Food Program, took place in Northern Bahr el Ghazal.

Notable attendees included Awut Deng Acuil, the national Minister of General Education and Instruction, representatives from the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Program (WFP) and donors such as GIZ, the European Union, the World Bank, and the Swiss Embassy, among others.

The celebration focused on highlighting the significance of the homegrown school feeding program, launched earlier this year by the WFP in South Sudan. The initiative was emphasized through a shared experience, where UN officials and senior government representatives, including those from Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, partook in locally prepared meals harvested from the school garden.

Addressing the audience at Maluil Akong Primary School in Aweil Center County of Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Makena Walker, the Acting Country Director of the WFP, underscored the importance of the homegrown school feeding program.

She emphasized that the homegrown school feeding program not only provides high-quality and nutritious meals for the students but also enhances their learning outcomes and overall health.

“In comparison to last year and previous meals served at the school, which mainly consisted of sorghum and beans prepared by the school committee with salt and oil provided by WFP, this year’s school meals are significantly different,” Makena explained. “Now, the students enjoy a diverse menu, including greens, cowpeas, and dry fish. We are truly grateful for this variety.”

Makena further outlined that the school meals initiative, implemented in 44 schools in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, operates on two key principles. The first is localization, where the community, parents, and children themselves take ownership of the school meals. The second principle is sustainability, ensuring that even if the World Food Program withdraws, the community can continue providing meals to their children, fostering a conducive environment for learning.

In her statement, Hamida Lasseko, UNICEF Country Representative in South Sudan, highlighted the significance of the School Feeding Day for the African Child, emphasizing its role in improving children’s access to education.

“As UNICEF, we value the holistic approach of having everything in one place, which enhances both access and the quality of education. Witnessing children receive nutritious meals is truly gratifying, as research confirms that well-fed children experience increased cognitive capacity, are more likely to stay in school, and exhibit improved learning abilities,” said Lasseko.

Governor Tong Aken Ngor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State expressed appreciation for the positive impact of the WFP school feeding program on school enrolment and student retention. He urged increased funding from WFP, UNICEF, FAO, and the World Bank for the program. Ngor highlighted the challenges posed by the current conflict in Sudan, leading to an influx of returnees and refugees in the state, resulting in a surge in school enrolment. He called on UN and donor partners to mobilize additional resources to address the crisis.

“This program has shown a remarkable impact on school enrolment, attendance, and retention of children. The school vegetable gardening component may contribute to income generation, improve nutrition, and enhance food security for our local population,” Aken said.

He commended WFP for its noteworthy project, acknowledging the crucial role it plays in addressing food security challenges in the state, particularly in areas classified as phases five, four, and three based on the December 2023 IPC release.

Aken also highlighted the specific challenges faced by Aweil East County, categorized among the five IPCs critical counties, including acute food insecurity, inaccessibility of some schools during the rainy season due to poor road construction in remote areas, and inadequate school infrastructure, leaving children to learn under trees.

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