The future of the School Feeding Programme spearheaded by the World Food Programme (WFP) is uncertain, as the organisation continues to struggle to raise up to $5.2 million (K2.9 billion) required to maintain the programme between now and March 2016.
Over 842,000 primary and pre-primary pupils in 715 schools across 13 most food insecure districts in the country are to be affected if the programme hailed for reducing malnutrition and stunted growth among the country’s children comes to a halt.
Responding to an emailed questionnaire on Friday, WFP Reports Officer Cheu Mita said children supported by WFP are meant to receive an enhanced nutrition product similar to Likuni Phala which is essential to prevent malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies that are known to contribute to stunting.
Said Mita: “The programme has shown to have a positive impact on enrolment, attendance and dropout rate, particularly during the lean season, with a 15 percent higher attendance rate, 96 percent attendance rate and an eight percent lower dropout rate in supported schools versus non-supported schools.
“Unfortunately, WFP has been unable to provide this enhanced nutrition assistance to children at this stage due to limited resources.”
However, Mita said WFP continues to strengthen advocacy efforts about the importance of school meals in Malawi to secure resources required to “sustain this vital programme.”
Principal Secretary in the ministry of Gender, Children, Disability and Social Welfare Mary Shaba said government was also negotiating with other partners to ensure that the programme continues considering the current hunger situation.
Shaba said most families in the country are experiencing food shortage at household level and the programme serves as a rescue to the scourges of hunger among the children.
She said realising the importance of the programme, government has engaged organizations such as USAID which has pledged to provide Likuni Phala for schools through its feed the children project.
Shaba added that the Ministry has also come up with an initiative that will see every parent contributing 40 kilograms of maize and 10 kilograms of soya beans to their child’s school for the processing of porridge flour.
“We have also written proposals to donors to support pregnant women, with babies and primary school children as a measure of reducing malnutrition among the country’s children.”
Malawi has one of the highest rates of under nutrition in the sub Sahara region at 42 percent and the burden is costing the country US$600 million (K336 billion) per year, according to the 2015 Cost of Hunger in Africa report.