By Idowu Abdullahi,
The Federal Government has disclosed that the Home Grown School Feeding Programme (NHGSFP) initiative remains part of its measures put in place to mitigate the hardship being faced by vulnerable Nigerians with children of school age following the economic effect occasioned by the coronavirus induced lockdown.
It explained that the initiative which will cater for 3,131,971 households of children in primary 1 to 3 in public schools that will receive uncooked food items valued at N4,200 each, despite the lockdown and closure of schools, was a testament of the government commitments to mitigate the effect of hunger among vulnerable families.
Recall that President Muhammadu Buhari had, during his first broadcast in March, directed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with relevant state governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding programme despite the closure of schools.
The move, he said, was part of his administration’s measures to cushion the impact of the novel virus and lockdown on vulnerable households, adding that such initiative would help families stay indoor and maintain social distancing to mitigate the spread of the pandemic.
Acting on the President’s directive, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disasters Management and Social Development, Sadia Umar-Farouk, on Thursday, while speaking at the official launch of the modified scheme in Abuja, held at Kuje Central Primary School, said the government in its bid to curb hunger among its populace put up measures such as the home school feeding programme as part of emergency response to the pandemic.
The federal government, Thursday, explained that it decided to go ahead with the feeding of school children captured in its Home Grown School Feeding Programme, NHGSFP, even when schools were still shut down as a result of coronavirus pandemic, because of its commitment and determination to cushion the hardship vulnerable school children were facing at home following the COVID-19 lockdown.
She explained that her ministry in collaboration with state governments identified the distribution of Take-Home Rations (THR) to the households of the children on the programme as a feasible method of achieving the Presidential directive after exploring several options that can best achieve the aim of the intervention.
According to her, the government is working in collaboration with the World Food Programme to ensure the intervention achieve the desired result, adding that the ministry had also collaborated with local agencies to ensure monitoring of the programme.
“Hunger is a serious by-product of this pandemic crisis, which is why from the onset the ministry has been evolving strategies to facilitate humanitarian interventions and this intervention is a globally accepted means of supporting children to continue to have access to nutrient-rich foods despite disruptions to the traditional channels of school feeding.
“Beginning today in Abuja, this programme will target parents and guardians of children in primary 1 to 3 in public schools participating in the programme. A total of 3.1 million households are targeted for this intervention. Lagos and Ogun states are next ports of call before the programme moves to other states of the Federation.
“As noted earlier we are working with the World Food Programme who are providing technical support while other agencies of government have been invited to provide an extra layer of monitoring. They include the DSS, EFCC, ICPC, Code of Conduct Bureau and a host of NGOs and CSOs.
“The ministry is using the opportunity of this modified program to collect and verify data with the support of CSOs and NGOs such as ActionAid, BudgIT, Tracka, and CMDA. We are thankful for the support of NGOs including Wimbiz, Waterlight initiative, AU ECOSOC, Orphans and women support the initiative, Youth fighters for COVID-19, Nigerian red cross, Coalition of NGOs and CSOs against COVID-19, Africa global empowerment and development network and a host others supporting the Ministry.
“We are working hard with our partners to mitigate the challenge posed by hunger especially during this trying period,” she said.