A Dubai Cares delegation has recently embarked on a monitoring and evaluation trip to Ethiopia in order to inspect the progress of the organization's 3-year integrated Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) pilot program. The program is being implemented in 30 schools to address the health and nutrition needs of approximately 30,700 primary school age children in the Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples' Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia.
The AED 15 million (US$ 4.1 million) Dubai Cares funded program in Ethiopia is based on a contemporary, cost-effective, nationally-owned and sustainable school health and nutrition model that aims to enhance primary school enrolment rates, reduce absenteeism and improve the cognitive learning abilities of the children. Launched in November 2012 in line with the UN Secretary-General's 5 year 'Global Education First Initiative', which has prioritized Ethiopia as a key target country, the program aligns with Dubai Cares commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for the next 15 years.
Speaking from the field, Mada Al Suwaidi, Programs Officer at Dubai Cares said: "The local communities have contributed significantly towards the success of the program. During the field visit, I was impressed to see that the community members have constructed school kitchens for the feeding to take place, and have also built a dining area in the schools so children can have a place to eat. The mothers are also devoted to the school feeding and put a lot of effort in running a smooth and successful feeding process. The children also participate in this process by bringing firewood and sometimes water so that the food could be cooked properly. Overall, this program has proven to be vital to the school children as well as the community."
The ongoing program, which is being implemented in partnership with the World Food Program (WFP), Partnership for Child Development (PCD) and SNV-Netherlands and in coordination with the Ethiopian Government, includes the provision of in-school meals prepared from locally sourced commodities, encouraging enrolment of children that live in poverty and are constantly battling food insecurity, while also stimulating local economic growth and development. The program provides a valuable opportunity for farmers and producers to generate a structured and predictable demand for their products. In addition to providing school children with nutritional meals, the program is also inclusive of Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) in schools as well as school-based deworming to treat parasitic infections and intestinal worms.
During the trip, the Dubai Cares delegation conducted school visits to witness the improvements made in the provision of nutrition to students, meeting with community representatives and government officials to garner further support and awareness of the program. Since the program began, the Education Bureau in Southern Nations and Nationalities Peoples' Region (SNNPR) of Ethiopia has procured and delivered approximately 900 metric tons of staple grains including maize, haricot beans as well as vegetable oil and salt, which helps to feed more than 30,000 pupils daily. As a result, it is estimated that over 9,000 smallholders have benefitted from the business generated from this program.
Commenting on the significance of such programs, Mada concluded: "Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of childhood mortality in Ethiopia. The Dubai Cares Home Grown School Feeding program in Ethiopia seeks to find sustainable community-based solutions to provide the future generations of school children with nutritional meals which not only improve their health, development and ability to learn, but also support local farmers. This is partnered with our efforts to offer safe drinking water, improved sanitation facilities and a school deworming intervention, to address the interrelated health issues which critically affect the world's most impoverished children and their access to quality education".
According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 66 million primary school-aged children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone. Moreover, 83% of deaths in children under the age of five are caused by infectious, neonatal or nutritional conditions.