More than 326,000 school children will receive take-home food rations this academic year as the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) expands its assistance to 1,415 primary schools across the country to support efforts to get and keep children in school post-Ebola.
WFP, in support of the national school feeding programme of the Ministry of Education Science and Technology is providing take-home food rations consisting of rice, oil and beans. The ration is provided to both boys and girls in primary schools situated in the most food insecure areas of the country.
“In line with the government’s National Ebola Recovery Strategy to roll-out and scale-up national school feeding programme, WFP’s take-home rations will serve as an incentive to parents to send their children to school, thus encouraging enrolment and attendance in primary schools,” said Peter Scott-Bowden, WFP Representative and Country Director in Sierra Leone.
Due to the Ebola outbreak, public schools in Sierra Leone remained closed after the 2014 summer holidays to help limit the spread of the virus. In April 2015, WFP played an important role in the reopening of schools. Through its food-for-work programme (FFW), WFP helped to ensure that schools previously used as centres for Ebola patients were cleaned and decontaminated, ready and safe for children. In partnership with the government, WFP supported the cleaning of 8,000 schools across the country. Participants in the FFW programme received food rations in exchange for their work.
Providing school meals is crucial in a country where 3.5 million people do not have enough food to lead healthy lives. The country is also still bearing the brunt of the Ebola outbreak, and the population continues to remain vulnerable.
In Sierra Leone, approximately 1.6 million children are enrolled in primary schools: net enrolment and completion rates for girls are lower than for boys, and these rates become lower in secondary schools. Net primary school enrolment is between 62 and 69 percent; drop-out rates are high, especially among girls in their early teens. Only 13 percent of children who enter grade 1 reach grade 6. To address this, WFP is providing take-home rations to help keep children in school.
“UNICEF and WFP with the Ministry of Education have worked together to put in place a mobile phone-based system called EduTrac to collect data, including data on how many children have received a take-home food ration,” said Kinday Samba, WFP’s Deputy Country Director.
WFP is able to expand its take-home ration programme to keep more children in school thanks to support from Japan and the European Union.