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Kenya launches school feeding program
for arid counties to spur enrolment   

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s Ministry of Education and partners on Wednesday launched a school feeding program targeting arid and semi-arid counties to boost enrolment among children from nomadic communities affected by hunger and malnutrition.

Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Education, said the state and multilateral partners will spend 30 million U.S. dollars to feed an estimated two million school children in the arid zones.

“Global evidence on health and nutrition interventions in schools reveal a multiple win for policymakers with important benefits for school achievement, employment and economic growth,” Mohamed said.

She noted that provision of nutritious meals will boost cognitive abilities of children in Kenya’s northern dry outposts that have always grappled with droughts and conflicts.

“Meals provided in schools offer direct benefits to the health and cognitive development of pupils by preventing or reversing adverse health effects of poor feeding habits,” said Mohamed.

The East African nation has borrowed global best practices to develop a national school meals and nutrition strategy covering 2017 to 2022 to tackle hunger and stunting that is to blame for poor academic performance among children in marginalized regions.

Mohamed said the success of school feeding program in the arid counties is dependent on sound policies, adequate funding and strategic partnerships.

She said small-holder farmers and other players in the agriculture value chain are expected to benefit from the revitalized school feeding program.

“Other benefits that will be unleashed by the meals for schools program include poverty reduction through improve household savings, gender equality in schools enrolment and reduction in child mortality,” said Mohamed.

Multilateral agencies will provide financial and technical assistance to help Kenya upscale nutritional interventions for school children in the arid regions.

Annalisa Conte, the WFP Country Representative in Kenya, said boosting nutrition status of children in marginalized counties will have a positive impact on the economy, security and communal relations.

“Evidence from evaluations have demonstrated that school meals are one of the most important and dependable safety nets for children and their families in Kenya,” said Conte.

“The meals represent an indirect income transfer to households and a powerful incentive for families to continue to invest in education, despite their livelihoods being under stress,” she added.

Conte hailed Kenya’s school feeding program terming it a model for other African countries grappling with higher illiteracy levels among children in drought hotspots.

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