Sudan is suffering from a conflict in the Darfur region that has displaced millions of people. But Darfur is not the only tragedy that has impacted this African nation. Southern Sudan is recovering from decades of civil war. With the chaos of these conflicts come food shortages and the onslaught of hunger. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) provides food to millions of people throughout Sudan. School feeding programs are part of this massive effort by WFP. These school meals are vital for the future of the children in Sudan. We will look more closely at this program with Sara Moussavi, WFP Program Officer for School Feeding in Sudan.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP school feeding programs within the country?
Over 1 million primary school children in 19 states in North and South Sudan.
Discuss what effect the meals have on the children in terms of school attendance, performance, and nutrition.
In Sudan, the school feeding program’s educational objectives are primarily to increase enrollment and sustain attendance, especially among girls. In South Sudan, WFP has been implementing a pilot incentive activity that includes a take-home ration for families, which allows their daughters to attend primary school. Based on a recent evaluation, WFP has found a substantial increase in girls’ participation in education in areas where females do not traditionally attend school and are married very young.
What plans are there for making school meals available for all children?
WFP works closely with all levels of the national government to ensure its involvement in the school feeding program. Government activities vary based on the capacity and stability of the situation. For example, in North Darfur the government is one of the main implementing partners. They are responsible for school level management of the program as well as monitoring and evaluation. However, in the Red Sea State, where WFP has had a long-running school feeding program, the government is not only managing the overall school feeding activity but is also contributing a significant amount of its own financial resources. Through sustained effort and support from the government, WFP hopes to see a national school feeding program materialize that will offer school meals to all children in Sudan.
What would be the sources of funding for any expansion of the school feeding program?
As Sudan stabilizes, WFP will seek further government contributions for a national school feeding program. We will also explore private sector participation, especially in regard to the local procurement of commodities for school meals.
What has been the effect of rising food prices on this funding effort?
As with all WFP activities, rising food costs have compromised WFP’s overall purchasing power which, in turn, increases our operational costs.
How can someone help the school feeding program?
Unlike most of WFP’s other activities, school feeding is a long-term project that should continue indefinitely through handover to the national government. In a country like Sudan, which has suffered decades of conflict, a national takeover will take time. Therefore, continued financial support is necessary to ensure program sustainability.
In addition to financial support, the government would benefit tremendously from capacity-building efforts such as school feeding management and educational information management. This could be done through partnerships with countries such as Egypt where school feeding programs have been successfully handed over to the national government.
Anything else you’d like to add about why you think school feeding is important for people to support?
WFP’s school feeding program is contributing to the overall enhancement of the educational system in Sudan. We are working with other organizations in the sector, including the Ministry of Education, to further establish school infrastructure and build the capacity of educational staff. This is particularly important in places where communities need to be revitalized in order to attract returnees and give a sense of hope to people who have suffered from decades of conflict.