By Joseph Erunke – Abuja
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.
The Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar-Farouq, who explained government’s position, at the official launch of the modified scheme in Abuja, held at Kuje Central Primary School, said hunger, which she noted, was a by-product of the pandemic, necessitated government’s decision.
“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,” she said.
Mrs Farouq said her “ministry in consultation and 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 this directive after exploring several options.”
“This 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,” she added.
She explained that the “programme is funded by the Federal Government but implemented by the states.”
Insisting that, “Hunger is a serious by-product of this pandemic crisis, Farouq explained that “The commencement of the school feeding programme today is based on Mr President’s directive to the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to liaise with State governments to develop strategies on the continuation of the school feeding programme.”
She spoke further: “The Ministry in consultation and 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 this directive after exploring several options.
“This 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.”