Mbabane — As the festive season approaches, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) will be celebrating - along with 97,000 orphans and 33,000 other vulnerable children - with the resumption of food distributions to 1,600 Swaziland neighbourhood care points. The service was disrupted earlier this year due to lack of funding.
"The peak of the lean season is approaching and recent studies indicate that about 10 percent of Swazis are not able to put enough food on the table, " says WFP Acting Country Director, Nils Grede. "The Christmas holidays will put additional pressure on households as their children will be at home and not receiving meals at school."
HIV/AIDS has left some 130,000 children of all ages orphaned and vulnerable in Swaziland. This is more than a third of all children in the country. Many of these children are malnourished; 40 percent of children under the age of five in Swaziland are stunted.
Food distributions resumed in mid-December thanks to the support of the National Emergency Response Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA), which administers funding provided by the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria. Children at the centres will now be getting two hot meals a day again.
"We're grateful to NERCHA, our staff and the transport companies because they got the job done," says Grede. "WFP is proud to partner with the Government of Swaziland and the Global Fund to lessen the hunger pangs of thousands of Swazi children who flock to the community-based centres for lessons and meals every day."
WFP provides breakfast and lunch for the children during the week. Super Cereal, a nutrient-fortified corn-soya blend, is served mid-morning,while lunch consists of maize porridge and pea soup, both of which are prepared on site by volunteer caregivers.
A survey of 240 neighbourhood care points by WFP in October found that 65 percent of them were no longer able to keep to their normal schedule of opening five or more days a week. The survey results suggest that the food acts as an incentive for the children to attend the centres and is a big driver in ensuring the 1,600 care points nationwide remain open.
This joint initiative between the Government and WFP is designed to improve the quality of life of Swaziland's orphans and vulnerable children by providing food assistance to those aged below eight years. Swaziland has the world's highest HIV prevalence rate with 26 per cent of adults infected.
It is part of a major project being implemented by WFP in partnership with the ministries of Education and Tinkhundla Administration & Development, as well as with selected non-governmental organizations.The project is due to continue till the end of December 2013.