Watch Hunger Stop

My Community, My Story:
AT WORK IN MOZAMBIQUE

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WFP has been supporting school feeding in Mozambique since 1977, helping to improve the lives of the country’s almost seven million school children, many of them chronically malnourished. Currently, WFP reaches 177 primary schools, feeding 82,000 students. All food is purchased locally, and the children receive a meal of fortified maize meal, beans, fortified vegetable oil and iodized salt. Mozambican Neema Mkomawanthu is a WFP school feeding assistant, one of the many dedicated and resourceful individuals who make sure that each child gets a meal each day. We spoke with Neema about her life and work.

Q: Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from and how long have  you worked for WFP? Where are you based?

A: I come from Lago District in Niassa Province, in northwestern Mozambique. I’ve been working for  WFP since May 2002 and am based in Tete City. 

Q: Why did you choose to work for WFP? Why is it important to you?

A: I’ve always dreamed of working with people in need. In college I did vocational work at some refugee camps  in Malawi. I also assisted in assessment work, doing nutritional status surveys in remote areas, where I saw how hunger affects people, especially children. After that, I decided that serving the hungry and the poor  was what I wanted to do. In my work, I contribute to fighting against hunger in school children, and the school meals we provide also help families educate their children.

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Neema Mkomawanthu is a familiar face—and welcome visitor—at the schools in Tete Province, working closely with school officials and community leaders to turn sophisticated planning and logistics into simple but life-changing meals.


Q: Tell us about the community you live and work in.

A: Tete City, where I live, has a population of approximately 156,000 and is the capitol of Tete Province, which has about 1.8 million people. I work primarily in schools and communities in three districts in Tete Province—Changara, Cahora Bassa and Marara. These are semi-arid districts with high rates of malnutrition. 

Q: What do you consider the biggest challenge facing Mozambique at the moment in terms of food?

A: People in the rural areas of Mozambique have high rates of chronic malnutrition because they are unable to produce enough food. Part of the problem is that they do not have the machinery needed to grow enough food to cover the needs of their families.

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It’s true everywhere: it takes a village to raise a child, and we are all part of that village.  In Mozambique, WFP, with support from Michael Kors’ Watch Hunger Stop initiative, works with partners ranging from the national government to local officials, teachers and parents to feed and help educate children in villages like Ponte 8.


Q: What kind of work do you do in your community through the  World Food Programme?

A: I am the Programme Assistant responsible for school feeding and nutrition rehabilitation in the Tete  office. That means I work directly with individuals at the schools where WFP is active, supervising job  training for program managers and community volunteers and also mobilizing community leaders and  the community as a whole in support of the school feeding program. 

Q: What’s a typical workday for you?

A: I spend a lot of time traveling to the different schools where we run programs. They are usually in quite remote regions and the roads can be bad so there’s a lot of driving. At the schools, I make sure the meals are being served correctly, talk to the managers and volunteers about their responsibilities, and check on the conditions at the school. Is there clean water? Are the children washing their hands before meals? Is there a place for them to eat? When I’m in the office, I spend my time planning the food distributions to schools and coordinating with our government counterparts, because that’s an important  part of the keeping the programs running. 

Q: What are some of your goals for the community and for yourself through the WFP?

A: I hope that by providing food to children in school, we encourage their families to send them to school. WFP’s school feeding programs also support agricultural development, providing a market for local farmers who, working through small holder associations, produce the food that the children eat in school. I’m hopeful that this agricultural development enables the economies of the local communities  where I work to better sustain themselves.

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Students in the district of Marara share a meal and a smile. For many children in remote, rural areas of Mozambique, the WFP-provided lunch they receive at school is the sole guaranteed, nutritious meal of the day.