Sarah Mpata, Lerato Ntsimane — The 7th African Day of School Feeding is celebrated 01 March 2022 to ensure that the COVID pandemic does not reverse the gains made in 2019, which saw 65.4million children receiving school meals on the African Continent. An unprecedented increase of 71% compared to 2013 was achieved through commitments made by various countries toward this cost-effective human capital development strategy.
A high-level convening moment led by the African Union continued its efforts to renew and scale-up African countries’ commitments and associated stakeholders to deliver homegrown school feeding programs that advance human capital development and achieve the SDGs. The theme “Nutrition and human capital development in Africa through increased investment in homegrown school feeding” calls for the strengthening of food security by strengthening agricultural systems to accelerate the development of human, social and economic capital on the continent.
This year’s celebrations included a two-day online event that sought to encourage ambitious and bold actions, also celebrating Africas’ commitment and leadership in the Global School Meals Coalition. Showcasing ambitious commitments from government and partners, sharing experiences from leading countries, presenting and launching the continental AUDA-NEPAD Home Grown School Feeding Guidelines, identifying ways to reinforce collaboration between partners, and sharing lessons learnt and best practices. The event opened with an address from Mr David Beasley, Executive Director WFP on behalf of U.N. agencies, DR Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Director of Dubai Cares and Ambassador Cessouma Minata Semate of the African Union Commission.
Ms Melizsa Mungayeni, CEO of the Graça Machel Trust joined a high-level session of A.U. Member State Ministers to reinforce commitment towards Home Grown School Feeding, the pledge towards the Global School Meals Coalition, and highlighting the organisation’s efforts and plans to strengthen programming for school feeding outcomes in collaboration with Southern African countries. In her remarks, Ms Mugyenyi emphasised the importance of human capital as a critical component of development. It leads to improved lives for individuals, higher earnings, and enhanced income for countries. She said African children present a potential demographic dividend that can contribute toward sustainable and equitable development if provided with suitable investments.
“School Feeding and nutrition programmes are central to the development agenda in Africa and key to inclusive and sustainable growth. In April 2020, however, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, almost all schools closed, leaving 370 million school children without access to the one meal a day they could rely on, setting back many African countries in their development initiatives,” she said. Reinforcing Ms Machel’s sentiments, “Together we must counteract the setbacks caused by COVID-19 and make meaningful investments in improving and restoring sustainable meal programs that many children desperately need.”
While a lot has been done, more can still be done. Under the A.U. 2022 theme of “building resilience in nutrition and food security on the African Continent: Strengthening Agro-food Systems, Health and Social Protection for the acceleration of human, social and Economic Capital” the Trust, together with our valued partners, have a unique opportunity to use the year to bring together public, private, civil society and multilateral stakeholders to challenge and support governments to express and strengthen their commitments towards school feeding and nutrition programmes in ways that are sustainable to the environment.
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