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39 billion in-school meals missed since COVID-19 pandemic


  30 Janvier      20        Education (4421),

   

Accra, Jan 30, GNA – United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Office of Research – Innocenti

and the World Food Programme (WFP) report indicates that nutrition crisis looms as globally more

than 39 billion in-school meals missed since start of COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, which was made available to the Ghana News Agency by UNICEF, attributed the

situation to schools’ closures since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report, dubbed “COVID-19: Missing More Than a Classroom” notes that 370 million children

worldwide – many of whom are reliant on school meals as a key source of their daily nutrition –

have missed 40 per cent of in-school meals, on average, since COVID-19 restrictions shuttered

classrooms.

“Despite clear evidence that schools are not primary drivers of COVID-19 infections, millions of

children are facing school closures around the world,” said Madam Henrietta Fore, UNICEF

Executive Director.

“Children who depend on schools for their daily meals are not only losing out on an education but

also on a reliable source of nutrition.

“As we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and await vaccine distribution, we must prioritize the

reopening of schools and take action to make them as safe as possible, including through renewed

investments in proven infection prevention measures like clean water and soap in every school

around the world.”

According to the report latest estimates show that 24 million schoolchildren were at risk of

dropping out of school due to the pandemic – reversing progress made in school enrolment in

recent decades.

It said school feeding programmes could provide incentives for the most vulnerable children to

return to school.

“Missing out on nutritious school meals is jeopardizing the futures of millions of the world’s poorest

children. We risk losing a whole generation,” said Mr David Beasley, WFP Executive Director.

“We must support governments to safely reopen schools and start feeding these children again. For

many, the nutritious meal they get in school is the only food they will receive all day.”

Regarding the situation in Ghana, the report indicated data provided by the Ghana School Feeding

Programme, under the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, shows that, whilst

Government provided meals for Junior High School (JHS) Three and Senior High School (SHS)

Three students, under the Government of Ghana COVID-19 response plan, as they returned to

school to prepare and write their final exams, more than 2.9 million children who were entitled to

school meals, missed out for up to ten months.

It said for many vulnerable children, this daily meal was an important part of getting access to

sufficient calories and helping them to concentrate and learn in school.

It said the absence of these meals, therefore, was a threat to the overall wellbeing and development

of many vulnerable children.

It said furthermore, approximately three million adolescent girls aged between 10 and 19 years –

who were already experiencing high rates of anaemia prior to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Ghana

– were not able to access their weekly iron-folic acid supplementation, leading to a potential roll-

back of recent progress made on reducing anaemia rates amongst girls.

It said during the pandemic, there had been a 30 per cent overall reduction in the coverage of

essential nutrition services including school feeding, micronutrient supplementation, and nutrition

promotion programmes in low- and middle-income countries, as well as programmes for the

treatment of severe malnutrition in children. During nationwide lockdowns in some countries, all

school feeding programmes were cancelled.

The report said schools’ meals were not only vital in ensuring children’s nutrition, growth and

development, they also provided a strong incentive for children – especially girls and those from the

poorest and most marginalized communities – to return to school once restrictions were lifted.

It said the longer children were out of school, the greater the risk that they would drop out of

education altogether; adding that girls face the added risk of forced transactional sex or early

marriage.

It said in the first nine months of 2020, more than 13 million schoolchildren received WFP school-

based support as compared to 17.3 million the previous year.

It said since the start of the pandemic, UNICEF had supported national governments to maintain

the continuity of nutrition services for school-age children and adolescents.

It said in 2020, nearly 25 million school-age children and adolescents benefitted from programmes

for the prevention of anaemia.

The report said where schools were still closed, UNICEF and WFP were urging governments to

prioritise their reopening while making sure that the health, food and nutritional needs of children

were met through comprehensive, high-quality school feeding programmes.

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