Faith Yahaya, Abuja
The Federal Government has flagged-off the distribution of school feeding programme in FCT.
The distribution is part of measures put in place by the federal government to reduce the impact of COVID-19 on parents of pupils who attend public schools.
Before the outbreak of Coronavirus, pupils in public schools in Primary 1 to 3 were fed daily to reduce the number of out- of- school children in the country.
As a way to ease the economic burden associated with the lockdown owing to the outbreak of the virus, President Muhammadu Buhari announced that the programme would be sustained despite the closure of schools across the country.
According to the Federal government, 3,131,971million households would benefit from the intervention.
The ration of food, which is expected to last each pupil for a month, contains a 5kg bag of rice, 5kg bag of beans, 500ml vegetable oil, 750ml of palm oil, 500mg of salt, 15pieces of eggs, and 140gm of tomato paste valued at N4,200.
The federal government, however, could not ascertain the precise amount it costs daily to feed the pupils despite reports it could amount to about N679million daily.
Speaking during the flag-off in Kuje Area Council of Abuja on Thursday, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Farouq, said the intervention cost federal government hundreds of millions.
She said: “This programme is funded by the Federal Government but implemented by the states. I am here to flag off the commencement of the modified program in the FCT and to conduct spot checks of the operations.
“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.
“The commencement of the school feeding programme today is based on Mr. President’s directive to the Ministry that we should liaise with State governments to develop strategies on the continuation of the school feeding programme.”
On the speculation that N679million is spent daily to feed the kids, she said: “I don’t know about that. I am not sure. I have told you it is in hundreds of millions because we are targeting 3.1million households all over the country. It is quite a large sum of money but I cannot tell you precisely the amount but it is a lot of money”.
On how beneficiaries were identified, she said: “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 and a total of 3.1 million households are targeted for this intervention.
“In addition to that, we also have the register from the school management where these children attend, so this is how we were able to identify the households where these children come from.”
The ration of food was handed over to 3512 parents and wards of pupils who attend public schools in the Kuje Area Council after their vouchers were verified by officials in charge of the programme.
The communities and number of households that benefited from the intervention are; Kuje Central SPS 820, Chibiri 388, Kwaku 380, Kabin Kasa 90, Gaube 830, Gidan Bawa 80, Gudunkarya 370, Kujekwa 22, Yenche 132 and Rubochi 300.
The minister also disclosed that Lagos and Ogun states are next ports of call before the programme moves to other states of the Federation.
She further noted that efforts are ongoing to mitigate the challenges posed by hunger, especially during this trying period.