Wednesday, July 24, 2024

AU hails Nigeria’s outstanding implementation of school feeding initiative

“We will only reach our goal to zero hunger if we all walk together.’’

• June 30, 2024
African Union (AU)
African Union [Photo Credit: AU]

The African Union has said over 65.4 million children in 51 countries now benefit from school feeding in Africa, with Nigeria standing out in implementation of the programme.

Project Manager for Nutrition and Food Safety, Africa Union Development Agency-New partnership for African development (AUDA-NEPAD), Kefilwe Moalosi, said this in a statement on Sunday, in Abuja.

Ms Moalosi, who spoke during a school feeding stakeholders’ strategic meeting, with the theme, “Encouraging state-driven implementation and best practices for school feeding towards local agricultural value chain, community engagement and economic development,” called on other African countries to emulate Nigeria.

She specifically called on Africa’s leadership to follow Nigeria’s example in transitioning the school feeding programme from a Federal Government-led initiative to states governments’ project.

“Recent disruptions to African economies add traction to the movement and the need to think local, especially in a continent where farming remains a top source of income and jobs, particularly for women. By working together, we can leverage our collective expertise and resources to develop comprehensive programmes that address the multifaceted needs of our children,” she said.

The project manager explained that from nutrition and health, to education and economic empowerment, funding for school meal programmes coming directly from governments could vary widely.

She noted that though investing in home-grown school feeding programmes was not without its challenges; its rewards far outweighed the costs.

Ms Moalosi reaffirmed the AU’s commitment to the well-being of African children, and the prosperity of its communities, saying in unity, a brighter future for generations to come could be built.

“We will only reach our goal to zero hunger if we all walk together, we have to run together towards our goal,” she stated.

She thanked the Nigerian government for collaborating with AUDA-NEPAD, to domesticate the continental school feeding guidelines through the engagement of school feeding implementers, especially at the community level, to contribute to the food and nutrition security outcomes.

Ms Moalosi expressed optimism that state-driven implementation and best practices for school feeding, could significantly enhance investments and promote local agricultural value chain.

She noted that it would also promote community engagement and economic development in school feeding programmes in Nigeria.

“School feeding programmes play a crucial role in addressing malnutrition, improving children’s health and educational outcomes. Promoting local agriculture and investing in home-grown school feeding programmes is not merely expenditure; it is an investment in our collective future.

“By leveraging the resources and capabilities of the state actors, we have the opportunity to transform the lives of millions of children across our nations. However, by providing daily meals sourced from local farmers and producers, we ensure that our children receive the essential nutrients they need to thrive both in schools and beyond,” Ms Moalosi said.

According to her, data compiled by the AU in 2019, indicates that the figure drawn from 51 countries represents a massive increase from 38.4 million in 2013.

She said the development should not be seen as surprising since African leaders, through the Assembly of Heads of States and Government in 2016, acknowledged the contribution of School Feeding to human resources.

She said they had also recognised capital development in Africa, and endorsed the Home-Grown School Feeding to be commemorated annually on March 1.

Ms Moalosi added that the statistics also indicated that only 27 per cent of children in sub-Saharan Africa accessed a school meal, which was affecting learning outcomes.

She, however, expressed delight that the programme was at least benefitting more than 65 million children in 51 African countries, representing 84 per cent funded by domestic budgets.

(NAN)

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