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Minister of General Education and Instruction Awut Deng Achuil (Center) speaks during the signing ceremony of school feeding program in Juba on Tuesday.

WFP launches school feeding program to support 23,000 children in South Sudan

The World Food Program (WFP) with support from Canadian government on Tuesday launched school feeding program aimed at supporting 23,000 children over the next three years in highly food insecure areas of South Sudan.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Country Director for WFP in South Sudan said the support worth 4.1 million U.S dollars will be channeled into areas impacted by conflict and climate shocks, both of which cause significant disruptions to education and access to food.

“When conflict or climate shocks strike a community, impacting livelihoods and food availability, schooling is often one of the first things to be deprioritized by families,” said McGroarty during the signing ceremony on Tuesday in Juba.

She said children especially girls, are at risk of being withdrawn from the classroom to help their family at home or to work, adding others may be forced to flee their community, leaving everything behind.

“Providing regular nutritious meals takes some of the pressure off parents and supports childhood development, while also providing continuity in the classroom that will lead to better futures for the students,” said McGroarty.

WFP with provide access to daily nutritious meals at school, or take-home rations, over the next three years.

Some 2.8 million children are out of school across South Sudan.

“WFP’s school meals are a vital social safety net that helps increase

enrolment and attendance at schools, particularly in highly food insecure areas,” said McGroarty.

Canadian Charge D’ Affaires, Julius Egbeyemi (Left), Awut Deng Achuil (2nd-Left), and Mary-Ellen McGroarty, Country Director for WFP in South Sudan (2nd –Right) pose for photo during the launch of school feeding program.

Awut Deng Achuil, the Minister of General Education and Instruction, said school feeding is a fundamental aspect of education in South Sudan.

 “It has a bearing not only in involvement of children in school, but also the retention and progress as well. Data from the annual education census 2021 indicated that schools that have a school feeding program are well attended than schools that do not provide feeding,” said Achuil.

“Therefore if we want to address the problem of 2.8 million out of school children in South Sudan, we must provide feeding in schools to retain our children and especially those who are vulnerable, we have children with disability, we have children in hard to reach areas who have nothing but really want support from all of us from the government and our partners,” she added.

Julius Egbeyemi, Charge d’affaires, Embassy of Canada in South Sudan advised WFP to strategize to improve school feeding program through adopting home grown school feeding and procurement of food items from local farmers.

“Where there are available resources we should spend them in the country and that will also boost the economy, this will cut the costs and enhance local economies as well,” said Egbeyemi.

Prolonged school closures through COVID-19 caused enrolment rates to plummet across the country and a slow uptake in enrolment when they reopened in early 2021.

 A successful Back to School campaign run by WFP and the UN International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) saw more children in the classroom; however, this was soon followed by the suspension of the School Feeding program in April 2022 for 178,000 children due to significant funding shortfalls, jeopardizing the gains made through the campaign.

WFP in South Sudan requires 531 million dollars to provide lifesaving and life changing assistance over the next six months.

The School Feeding program has one of the largest funding shortfalls and is less than 30 percent resourced.

Additional funding would allow WFP to expand homegrown school feeding and increase the use of local produce which, in turn, empowers local communities and strengthens local food systems.

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