After a bumpy start, IFA's flagship Sustainable School Health and Nutrition Program (SSHNP), our first rural program at Jihur primary school (JPS), has taken off and is currently reaching 100 students. Although Jihur is only 214 kilometers away from Addis Ababa, the capital city, it is located in one of the most underdeveloped areas of Ethiopia, in North Shoa. As is typical of rural areas in Ethiopia, Jihur is populated by subsistence farmers. Jihur Primary School is the only school in the area and has some of the poorest children in the surrounding community attending it. Many of these children come to school underfed.
The school faced a difficult set of decisions during the beneficiary selection process, in which the district and the school management team had to pick the 100 most vulnerable students from among 1,800. Every effort has been made to target individual children for school feeding assistance on the basis of vulnerability. This is because the program has the capacity to serve only 100 students at the present time. The vulnerability criteria used include: Death of one or both parents; unemployment of mother and/or father; lack of a sustainable food source for the family; average number of meals per day is one; lack of support from anyone inside or outside of the family; and a high frequency of absenteeism from school. The SSHNP at JPS has 21 special needs students and another 34 who have partial disabilities but are still able to attend regular classes. A total of 60 students are one-parent orphans and 9 students are two-parent orphans. Of these students, 50 have no access to regular meals due to various reasons.
Jihur Primary School Classroom
The SSHNP at JPS has accomplished much that we at IFA are proud of: The construction and equipping of the kitchen and a dining room, training of cooks, conduction of baseline anthropometric measurements, dispensation of deworming tablets and provision of nutritious, plant-based meals on school days.
Some of the implementation challenges and constraints we are working under are: increased transport cost, unavailability of VAT registered food commodity suppliers, frequent power outages, and lack of a reliable water supply.
An outstanding feature of the SSHNP at JPS is the enthusiastic support IFA has garnered from the school community, evidenced by the many volunteer hours the teachers are devoting to the running of the program. They are urging IFA to expand our services to reach more students who also desperately need the educational and nutritional support of the SSHNP.
Jihur Primary School Assembly