60,000 children could drop out of school, warns WFP

60,000 children could drop out of school, warns WFP
Students at Juba Diocesan Model Secondary School chat on the first day of reopening in May after staying home for one year. Learners were still adjusting to the class work after staying at home. [Sheila Ponnie, City Review]

About 60,000 school-going children are at the precipice of dropping out of school due to the lack of donor funds. The United Nations World Food Programme argues that it would cost at least $2 million to keep this lot in school.

“60,000 children are still not receiving school meals, with long-term impacts on their education, requiring an addition USD 2.67 million to resume in 2022,” WFP stated in its report.

The UN agency announced the resumption of the school feeding programme in 260 schools across the country after a recent scale-down due to a lack of funding, owing to the Russo-Ukrainian war.

The contribution was announced, a month after the UN agency suspended food assistance to nearly 2 million South Sudanese.

 “The recently confirmed contributions have allowed WFP to resume the programme in 260 schools for 120,000 students.”

According to the WFP’s new Country Strategic Plan (2023-2025), the agency will expand the school feeding programme to severely food insecure locations in South Sudan mainly in flood-affected areas.

However, the organization was forced to prioritise its assistance and suspend the school feeding programme in approximately 470 schools in 2022.

But after receiving a donation of $1.3 million on July 7, from the French government to nutritional assistance to more than 20,000 children in South Sudan, WFP resumed the school feeding programme.

 “WFP welcomed the USD$1.29 million contribution from France to provide nutrition assistance to thousands of people in South Sudan, where more than 7.74 million people are increasingly hungry as a result of years of conflict, the impact of climate shocks such as flooding, and economic crisis,” the statement read in part.

Dire consequences

The Ministry of General Education and Instruction, along with WFP and other partners, warned of the devastating impact of the suspension of assistance on school feeding.

The school feeding programme in South Sudan must be continued and expanded as an essential social safety net program and development catalyst.

According to the most recent 2022 Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, South Sudan’s overall food security is deteriorating, and malnutrition levels are rising, with 7.74 million people at risk of severe acute hanger. 

As per the UN report, more than 60 per cent of the population will struggle to put food on the table on a daily basis during the lean season, and 87,000 people are already facing catastrophic levels of food insecurity (IPC Phase 5).