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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.