Under-nutrition leading to poor learning capacity is a major public health problem among primary school children in Ethiopia. The main conditions that have a negative impact on the health and education of children are related to poor nutrition and sanitation. Inadequate food, poor diet, infections, lack of safe water and poor sanitary facilities, especially affecting pubescent girls, are some of the common problems faced by primary school children in Ethiopia. Impaired sight is another contributing factor. The long-term effect of these conditions is a negative impact on the overall growth and development of children, which decreases their learning potential and hinders prospects for them and their families in the future. To meet some of these negative impacts, IFA set-up a Sustainable School Health and Nutrition Program (SSHNP).
The objectives of the program are to deliver a plant-based nutritional diet for some the most vulnerable students in selected primary schools, support pubescent girls, ensure all students have optimum vision, improve sanitary facilities, provide storage for clean water and provide training to students in the importance of good hygiene and hand washing. The SSHNP seeks long-term sustainability through community ownership and the development of income generating activities.
Under nutrition is a major public health problem among children in Ethiopia causing irreversible consequences on children’s physical and mental health and contributes to over half of child deaths. School-age children face high levels of illness and malnutrition during their crucial growing years, decreasing their ability to pay attention and progress in school. Reports indicate that school children can lose as much as 160 days each year due to illness because under nutrition magnifies the effect of every disease (FAO, 2012). Despite the importance of school meals for vulnerable and poor children, currently only 5% of primary school age children are beneficiaries of a School Feeding Program (SFP) in Ethiopia. For these reasons IFA has pledged its commitment to Agazian No. 2 and Sibiste Negasi Primary Schools , both serving a poor catchment area in Nefas Silk lafto area of Addis Ababa, with a sustainable School Health and Nutrition (SHN) Program for their most under nourished children.
Our overall goal is to provide a self-sufficient and sustainable SHN Program that contributes to improved health and educational achievement of vulnerable students in selected schools. The SHN program will increase the availability of a school-based nutrition and health service, address micronutrient deficiencies and improve health issues such as parasitic infection and poor hygiene methods. With these improvements it is anticipated that the selected students’ attendance rates will increase resulting in improved learning opportunities.
The SHN Program will be sustainable. One mechanism to achieve this is the development of income generating activities (IGAs) that will secure the necessary funds to mitigate donor dependence. The building of two bakeries on site (to sell bread to distributors within the local community) is a feasible IGA that has been selected by both schools. All profits received from the IGAs will be reinvested back into the SHN Program. In addition, Sibiste Negasi Primary School will establish a vegetable garden on site and all produce will be used in their SFP.
To date, both schools have a successful SFP in place and we are now moving into the second phase of our program to make the program sustainable with the establishment of their selected IGAs.