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WFP donates US$2, 3 million food consignment to vulnerable children


Limpho Sello

THE United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) and the Japanese government this week donated 206 metric tonnes of canned fish to the government.

The food is meant for the schools feeding programme and it will be used to feed about 30 000 vulnerable learners in early childhood development centres (ECDCs) around the country this year.

Education and Training Minister Ntlhoi Motsamai told guests at the handover ceremony in Maseru that a total of 29 600 vulnerable learners would benefit from the consignment valued at US$2, 3 million (about M37,6 million).

Ms Motsamai said the fish was initially meant for on-site feeding at schools but due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools in March this year, it will now be given to the children to take to their homes.

“The Ministry of Education and Training has already changed the school feeding modality after the Covid-19 lockdown to a take home model targeting the vulnerable children in our schools,” Ms Motsamai said.

“The take home ration is currently using food that was meant for school feeding during this academic year. This will ensure that children remain healthy and ready to return to school as soon as the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) allows the safe opening of all schools.”

Ms Motsamai thanked the Japanese government for its support saying it would help alleviate the food shortages in a fragile economy like Lesotho’s which had been badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Lesotho recognises education as a powerful weapon for socio-economic development. This explains why access to education has been our main focus since 2000 when we implemented the free primary education policy.

“The gift that we are receiving through the WFP is invaluable to our children and the entire nation… school feeding is one of our largest safety net programmes,” Ms Motsamai said.

She assured the WFP and the Japanese government that her ministry would do everything in its power to ensure that the donations reached the intended beneficiaries.

On her part, WFP acting country representative, Hsunhee Marian Yun, said the Japanese government’s donation came at a critical time when her organisation was appealing for more resources to respond to increasing needs in Lesotho.

Ms Yun said the consignment would go a long way in helping many children as they were only able to get nutritious meals at school through the schools feeding programme.

“It will help the most vulnerable, Basotho children, some of whom only get nutritious meals at school.

“It is clear that school meals integrated into comprehensive education programmes have the ability to unleash potential?in terms of new educational opportunities, social protection, gender empowerment and economic growth,” Ms Yun said.

She said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on school children globally with almost 1, 6 billion children and youth around the world being forced to stay away from schools and universities.

“Nationwide closures are in force in 192 countries… some children may never recover from the school closures. The poorest will miss years of schooling and some like girls and older children may never return to school.

“Because of the pandemic, nearly 370 million schoolchildren at the height of the pandemic were missing out on school meals on which they depend,” Ms Yun said.

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