Sunday , May 19 2024
Aboubacar S. Guindo of WFP talks about Mali's school feeding program as we head into critical months of the Sahel food crisis.

Sahel Food Crisis: An Interview with Aboubacar Guindo of WFP in Mali

Almost nine million people urgently need food assistance in the Sahel region of Africa following a severe drought. And time is running out to prevent a massive humanitarian disaster.

Josette Sheeran, the director of UN World Food Programme, says, “The needs of the millions affected by drought in the Sahel are enormous, and the time to act is now.”

Mali is one of the countries caught in the crisis. Mali is not only contending with drought but also conflict in the North between a rebel group and the government. The fighting is creating additional displacement and hunger.

WFP runs school feeding in Mali to save children from hunger and malnutrition and keep them in class. But will there be enough support to keep the program going during this food crisis? WFP depends on voluntary donations to fight hunger around the globe.

A field of withered crops in the Mali’s Kayes region. Drought has ruined food supplies in the Sahel region of Africa, which includes the countries of Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Senegal, and Chad. (WFP/Daouda Guirou)

Aboubacar S. Guindo, a WFP school feeding officer, talks about where Mali’s program stands now as we head into critical months of this hunger emergency.

How many children are receiving WFP school meals in Mali? Is this a breakfast or lunch ration?

Actually, we are feeding 156,666 kids in 729 schools in the country. They do receive hot meals generally served at midday. In addition to that, the Government undertook under the national budget to cover an additional 651 schools (117.000 children) who are also benefiting from hot meals.

Are these schools in the areas affected by the drought conditions?

Yes, most of the schools are based in the area affected by the drought that results in communities’ increasing vulnerability. The government through the Early Warning System identified 159 communities that are the most affected by this crisis. To respond to this, WFP elaborated an Emergency Operation (EMOP) with a School Feeding component to avoid important drop-outs that schools used to face in this type of crisis. The EMOP will also include nutrition, food for work, and cash components.

School feeding in Mali is vital especially at a time of crisis. (WFP/Cornelia Walther)

In the affected communes all the assisted schools from both government and WFP programs will receive a complimentary meal made of enriched cereals (supercereal) as breakfast. We are planning to assist 150,000 kids under this initiative.

Does WFP intend to expand the program?

For now, the extension WFP will do concerns the coverage of the schools affected by the drought. We are more likely to reinforce government abilities to develop and implement a National SF programme.

Does WFP have enough resources to continue providing the school meals?

Funding is the biggest challenge. We have been obliged last year to reduce the numbers of meals in the northern region due to reductions in funding. In addition to food insecurity, WFP is assessing the needs of the internally displaced due to conflict in the north. This assessment may show in an increase in needs.

We hope to have more contributions from local and international donors in order to continue to provide our support to communities as well as the government so that hunger does no longer constitutes a barrier to the education of any children in Mali.

For more information please visit the World Food Programme.

About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

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