The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of €5 million from the European Union (EU) to support the Home Grown School Feeding project and boost the nutrition of 20,000 children, mothers and pregnant women in central Burundi.
“We are very grateful to the EU for this important and timely support, which will contribute to the government’s efforts to improve the food and nutrition security in Burundi,” said Charles Vincent, WFP Burundi Country Director a.i. “The package we plan to provide in Gitega province will not only help children reach their full potential but also improve the overall food security of those we support.”
The funds will contribute to the reduction of food and nutrition insecurity of rural populations affected by the ongoing socio-political situation in Burundi through a project combining support to education, promotion of agricultural production and prevention of malnutrition.
“This financial support of the EU is part of the larger envelope provided to respond to the effects of climate change in developing countries,” said Wolfram Vetter, Head of the European Delegation to Burundi. “In Burundi, it will contribute to improve the living conditions of populations who were severely affected by climatic shocks and the recent socio-political situation in the country.”
The EU contribution will enable WFP to purchase food commodities from local smallholders in Gitega province and distribute them to school children through hot school meals made of rice, beans and locally fortified maize flour. The distribution of fresh milk will also be piloted in schools receiving assistance.
School feeding has proven to be effective in increasing attendance rates and was commended by the Government of Burundi during last year’s WFP portfolio evaluation. School feeding is also expected to bring back children who had quit school due to a lack of food at home. At the same time, the market provided to smallholders through purchase of their produce will boost food production and the local economy.
In a country where the chronic malnutrition rate is a shocking 58 percent, the project will seek to prevent malnutrition and stunting by focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from conception to a child’s second birthday. Inadequate nutrition during this crucial period can lead to irreversible damage to minds and bodies, affecting a child’s ability to grow, learn and eventually rise out of poverty. People affected by stunting, or reduced growth, are more likely in later life to be ill, to perform poorly at school or drop out of classes, to be less productive at work and even to die early.
Specialized nutrition products, enriched with protein, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, will be provided by WFP to pregnant and nursing women and children from 6 to 59 months. This is part of a full package of services including nutrition, hygiene and sanitation education.