A top official from South Africa sees for himself the impact of his country’s donation on hunger relief in Lesotho and, in particular, the big difference it has been making for school children.
There was great excitement at Masapong Primary School in early September when it received a visit from South Africa’s Director General of International Relations and Cooperation, Ambassador Jerry Matjila. He was in Lesotho to review the impact of his country’s US $20 million donation to WFP’s school meals and nutrition programmes in the Mountain Kingdom.
“I wish to see these children continue coming to school and eating their food,” said Ambassador Matjila during his visit to the school in Nazareth in western Lesotho. “I’m happy with how WFP is managing the situation and that the scheme is working well.”
Every day, the children of Masapong Primary School get papa (maize meal porridge) for breakfast and papa with either beans or fish for lunch.
“It’s great coming to school each day not having to worry about food,” says Lerato (11) who lives with her grandmother and elder sister in the nearby village of Ha-Molengoane. “The meals really help me to concentrate on my studies.”
This is confirmed by the school principal, Mamahloka Mahloka, who says that school meals are not only improving concentration levels but also reducing the drop-out rate among students.
Lerato is among 240 orphans and vulnerable children attending Masapong Primary – nearly a third of the total number of students.
WFP is currently supporting some 200,000 pupils in 1,025 primary schools – up from 75,000 pupils prior to the South Africa donation – as well as 50,000 pre-school children throughout Lesotho. This is good news in a country where undernourishment is the third cause of mortality among children under five years of age (after diarrhoea and pneumonia). The stunting rate among in children lies at an alarming 39 percent, according to Lesotho Ministry of Health figures.
“We’re making sure that we provide food that is fortified with nutrients that promote growth and good health,” said Ambassador Matjila. “Every child should eat at least one piece of fruit per day and my assignment from here is to go and discuss the possibilities of introducing a fruit basket.”
Fortunately, Masapong Primary has a garden and an orchard of peach trees, tended by the children. In the early months of the year when the fruit is ripe, the children pick and eat it.