Zambia, ranked 165th on the Human Development Index, is one of the world’s poorest countries. Zambia’s population of 12.8 million is faced with one of the highest adult HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world (16.5%).
The recurrent droughts and floods experienced in recent years, particularly in southern Zambia - Eastern, Southern, Western and parts of Lusaka Provinces - have also resulted in extreme fluctuations in the production levels of maize and other staples, leading to a massive reduction in food and nutrition security. This, coupled with the steep rise in food and energy prices, has caused increases in malnutrition rates as signaled by the in-depth Vulnerability Assessment Report of the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZVAC) in June 2008. Global acute malnutrition (GAM) rates have risen 7.7 percent, on an upward trend towards emergency levels.
Despite the Zambian government's policy of free education, 32% of the population above fifteen years old is unable to read or write. One of the main reasons school-age children in Zambia do not go to school is poor access to food and other school requisites. The number is steadily increasing. Dropout and repetition rates also compromise the efficiency and effectiveness of the school system. In 2006, the primary school completion rate was only 43.1% with an annual increase of 6.3% percent.
School feeding programs provide a vital safety net for children. Providing nutritious food at school is a simple but effective way to improve literacy rates and help poor children break out of poverty. In this interview with Purnima Kashyap of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) we will look at the status of school feeding in Zambia.
How many children are benefiting from the WFP School feeding programs within the country?
The World Food Programme and the Ministry of Education take a holistic view to solving the problem of children who are both hungry and in need of education. WFP has supported a school feeding programme in Zambia since 2003.
As of 2008, WFP provides hot nutritious porridge [made up of locally produced Corn Soya blend and vegetable oil] to 250,000 children in over 800 schools situated in the most drought-prone and food-insecure areas with low educational indicators and high HIV/AIDS prevalence. Children in all targeted schools receive the porridge upon arrival at school every day. Also, over 28,000 households are benefiting from take-home ration support, where children bring home food to share with their families. This is meant to encourage households to host orphans and vulnerable children and send children to school.