Following a more than five-year hiatus, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) resumed its school meals programme in Sudan’s Blue Nile State this week for more than 7,000 students in 21 schools.
Insecurity and lack of access had forced WFP to suspend the programme in September 2011. Prior to this interruption, WFP had provided school meals to around 70,000 students throughout Blue Nile State.
“I remember there were times when my sisters and I used to go home for breakfast in the middle of the school day,” said 15-year-old Ibrahim Ahmed, a student in Blue Nile State. “It is almost a one-hour walk from school to home, and we either ended up missing out on a lot by the time we got back to school, or we never went back because we were too tired to walk again.” Ibrahim was in second grade when WFP suspended the programme. Now in the seventh grade, he looks forward to eating meals again with his friends in school and not having to miss school.
Providing school meals is WFP’s longest-running programme in Sudan. Since 1969, WFP has been assisting millions of schoolchildren through its school meals programme. The programme currently provides school meals to almost one million children in Sudan, more than half of whom come from displaced and other vulnerable families in the Darfur region.
“I share the joy of children in Blue Nile who will now be having healthy meals, which we will provide in their schools. School meals not only prevent hunger among children during the school day, but they can also enhance nutrition and help improve school performance,” said WFP Sudan Representative and Country Director Matthew Hollingworth. “I am grateful to the Ministry of Education, parents, teachers, communities and the staff of our partner Mubadiroon who worked with us tirelessly in bringing this programme back to schools in Blue Nile.”
School meals provide an emergency safety net to schoolchildren and help to ensure that children, particularly girls, receive the education to which they are entitled. In the eastern states of Kassala and Red Sea, WFP has been providing take-home rations to 5,000 schoolgirls in selected schools where girls’ enrolment is extremely low. As a result, the number of girls attending school is now close to that of boys.
WFP, the Ministry of Education and the World Bank recently organised a workshop on Systems Approach for Better Education Results (SABER) for School Meals. SABER is a useful tool for assessing school meals programmes with the government and other stakeholders. The introduction of SABER is one of the key steps to the development of a national school meals policy and programme.
Sudan is one of WFP’s most complex emergencies, with recurring conflict, new and protracted displacements, insecurity, and crisis levels of malnutrition and food insecurity. In 2016, WFP plans to assist 4.6 million vulnerable people in Sudan through a mix of activities, including emergency food and cash-based transfers, nutritional support and resilience-building activities to support communities to become self-reliant.