In keeping with the Federal Government’s promise to improve the welfare of Nigerians, the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management, and Social Development will today commence the implementation of the National Home Grown School Feeding Programme, NHGSFP, Covid-19, beginning with the Federal Capital Territory, FCT.
The new initiative is, as a result of the modification of the NHGSFP, which is now targeted at ensuring that, school pupils on the program, do not lose the nutritional gains made during the school term, due to the nationwide shut down of schools and lock down, by states, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in his last national broadcast pledged that, his government will immediately commence deployment of additional Federal Government’s human, material, and technical resources to strengthen and support the States’ government’s efforts.
In line with the President’s position, the Minister of Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq swung into action, coming up with a modified NHGSFP.
In an official statement by the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, signed by the Ministry and Federal Capital Territory Representative, the Ministry stated that, cook sensitization will begin Monday , May 11, 2020 while voucher distribution and inspection of food items at warehouse will take place Tuesday being May 12, 2020.
Voucher distribution will continue on Wednesday May 13, 2020 while the flag-off will commence Thursday, May 13, 2020.
Target beneficiaries of the exercise are households with children in primary 1-3 in public schools, with emphasis on vulnerable households whose means of livelihood is based on daily income.
According to the ministry, the primary intervention will target households with children verified to be on the program; a secondary intervention will target households with children of primary school age who may not be on the program but whose caregivers depend on daily earnings for living while a tertiary intervention will target households with young children and infants.
Altogether, a total of 9,026,301 children drawn from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja in 3,131,971 households are expected to benefit from the programme. With the arrangement, supplies of food items would be made available to the households of children enrolled on the programme, while parents or care givers of these children, after getting a voucher can go to the designated collection centers and collect food stuffs.
The food package, appropriately dubbed take home ration (THR) because it is uncooked comprises of 5kg of rice, 5kg of beans, 500ML of vegetable oil, 750 ML of palm oil, 500G of salt, 5 pieces of eggs, 140 G of tomato paste.
It is worthy of note that the ministry, in collaboration with the state governments, had arrived at the THR as the most effective way of delivering on the President’s mandate, giving the emergency strictures under which the charge would be executed. Also noteworthy is the fact that the ministry had to consult with various teams, educationists, and the World Food Program prior to a final decision on the food rations that would be contained in the package.
In a major development, the programme has been designed as a vehicle for propagating the safety protocol of the COVID-19 pandemic campaign. Consequently, the Ministry has instructed that all safety precautions will be adhered to. The message to the beneficiaries reads: “On arrival at the distribution centre, you present your voucher, then your temperature is checked , you wash your hands, then you are allowed entry, where you will proceed to crowd control area; where there will be strict social distancing rules.
Beneficiaries are to maintain at least, one meter or three feet between yourself and the one at the centre.” To further observe strict social distancing rules, the Ministry equally directed that “no handshake, avoid touching eyes and mouth to prevent transfer of the virus into your body. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow bent or tissue when you cough or sneeze; then dispose- off the tissue immediately. Beneficiaries will be asked to present their voucher for scanning and verification. After verification, you go to the pick-up area, pick your ration, check out and exit the venue”.
A time of growing concern
The exercise is coming at a time of growing concern over the fate of school children sequel to the COVID-19 pandemic. With classrooms closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, two UN agencies are urging governments to act now; to shore up the future of the 370 million children worldwide who depend on school meals.
The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) fear these young lives will suffer devastating nutritional and health consequences as a result of the crisis, the same reasons that informed President Buhari’s decision to continue with the school feeding programme.
In a recent report, concerning the situation, David Beasley, the WFP Executive Director had this to say: “For millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day. “We must act now to prevent the health pandemic from becoming a hunger catastrophe and to ensure that no one is left behind.” As a safety net, the meals are particularly critical for girls, according to the two partners.
As studies have revealed, some parents in poor countries will send their daughter to school based on the promise of her getting a meal there. This in turn allows girls to escape domestic drudgery or even forced early marriage. School is also more than a place of learning, as children in poor countries often benefit from health services delivered there, such as vaccinations and de-worming. “For many children it is a lifeline to safety, health services and nutrition”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director. Unless we act now – by scaling up lifesaving services for the most vulnerable children – the devastating fallout caused by COVID-19 will be felt for decades to come.”
The Ministry which came into being in 2019 has, in many circumstances, ensured better coordination of humanitarian services, protection of relief providers and safety of emergency workers, whilst ensuring the judicious utilisation of resources. The ministry has benefitted from the experience of the pioneer minister, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq who, prior to her appointment, was the Federal Commissioner for Migrants, Refugees and Internally Displayed Persons.
Looking to the future, the WFP and UNICEF are working with governments to support children now out of school, in line with a recent report from the UN Secretary-General which highlighted the pandemic’s impact on school meals, which are often the only reliable daily intake children can expect to receive.
In collaboration with home governments, these agencies are providing children, in nearly 70 countries, with take-home rations, vouchers or cash transfers as an alternative. Since the COVID-19 outbreak early this year, the newly created Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, in Nigeria, has been on top of its mandate, beginning with the Conditional Cash Transfer to vulnerable people and now, the School Feeding Program for pupils at home.
The Ministry which came into being in 2019 has, in many circumstances, ensured better coordination of humanitarian services, protection of relief providers, and safety of emergency workers, whilst ensuring the judicious utilisation of resources.
The ministry has benefitted from the experience of the pioneer minister, Hajia Sadiya Umar Farouq who, prior to her appointment, was the Federal Commissioner for Migrants, Refugees and Internally Displayed Persons.