(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

Emergency school feeding to expand

[ZIMBABWE] School feeding programme.

The Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-SAFE) aims to assist 354,000 children with its emergency school-feeding programme in Zimbabwe.

C-SAFE will be expanding its feeding programme to some 722 schools through its partners, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision and CARE. C-SAFE is funded by the US Agency for International Development.

The emergency school feeding programme has been providing nutritional support to thousands of vulnerable children from families struggling to cope with rising food insecurity.

"Emergency school feeding allows us to fill a gap in the food needs of vulnerable households. Daily food requirements have been harder to meet since the cessation of general food [aid] distributions earlier in the year," C-SAFE quoted Jason Sullivan of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) as saying. "Food-scarce households are surviving in the face of an absent or rapidly dwindling harvest, as well as the instability of hyper-inflation. Rural communities report that cereal is often unavailable for purchase or simply unaffordable in these areas."

The programme's ration of corn-soy blend and vegetable oil will provide one meal of nutritious porridge a day to school children, many of whom are orphans or children of chronically ill parents.

"Schools are often an insightful barometer of wider community crisis. Teachers report that since general [food aid] distributions were stopped in April, the community's food security and nutritional status has deteriorated noticeably," C-SAFE commented.

The school-feeding scheme has provided an incentive for both hungry children and parents with limited capacity to produce or purchase food. At the Shirichena School in Chegutu District, southwest of Harare, the attendance of enrolled children is peaking at 90 percent because there is food available, as opposed to just 50 percent before, when many children were too weak to walk the long distances to the classroom, C-SAFE said.

The programme, which recommenced last week to coincide with the new school term, has provided relief to vulnerable families, as many children spent their school holidays collecting and selling firewood to purchase maize, or simply survived on infrequent meals.

"[However], with the onset of the traditional 'hungry season' last month, the near future could be despairing for many Zimbabwean families. Even if there are good rains for next April's harvest, many people will be battling fatigue or sickness due to nine months of mounting food insecurity, and will be unable to work the crops," C-SAFE warned.

CRS' Sullivan added that, "given the serious situation in many communities, C-SAFE would ideally like to expand the programme to assist more vulnerable school children throughout the country. School-feeding is a practical way to deliver daily meals to a great number of children in Zimbabwe's most vulnerable communities".

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