pledge to support 10m children in 30 low-income countries
By Gabriel Ewepu
ABUJA- THE United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, and World Food Programme, WPF, Wednesday, raised concern over feeding and future of 370 million children due to school closure caused by the Cornonavirus, COVID-19, pandemic.
This was contained in a joint statement signed by the two organisations after a virtual regional press conference via ZOOM, where they urged national governments to prevent devastating nutrition and health consequences for the 370 million children missing out on school meals amid school closures.
According to the statement school meals are especially critical for girls. In many poor countries, the promise of a meal can be enough to make struggling parents send their daughter to school, allowing her to escape heavy domestic duties or early marriage.
In the statement, according to the Executive Director, WFP, David Beasley, millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day and without it their health is endangered, which action should be taken now to prevent looming hunger catastrophe.
Beasley said: “For millions of children around the world, the meal they get at school is the only meal they get in a day. Without it, they go hungry, they risk falling sick, dropping out of school and losing their best chance of escaping poverty. We must act now to prevent the health pandemic from becoming a hunger catastrophe.”
Expressing concern about the plight of children, Executive Director, UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said up-scaling lifesaving services for the most vulnerable children is imperative.
Fore said: “School is so much more than a place of learning. For many children it is a lifeline to safety, health services and nutrition. 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 statement reads further, “Alongside school meal programmes, children in poor countries often benefit from health and nutrition services – such as vaccinations, deworming and iron supplementation – delivered through their schools.
“In response to a recent report from the United Nations Secretary-General, which highlighted the number of children missing out on school meals, WFP and UNICEF are working with governments to support children who are out of school during the crisis. In 68 countries, governments and WFP are providing children with take-home rations, vouchers or cash transfers as an alternative to school meals.”
“Under the partnership, WFP and UNICEF will assist governments in the coming months to ensure that when schools reopen returning children benefit from school meals and health and nutrition programmes. This will also provide an incentive for parents to send their children back to school. The agencies are also working together to track children in need of school meals through an online School Meals map”, it added.