Feeding programme for school children in Nigeria SOURCE: Schooland health.org

The United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) recently organised a special training programme for senior officials constituting the implementing team of the Federal Government’s Cash Transfers and Homegrown School Feeding programmes in has ended in Asaba, the Delta State capital. Omon-Julius Onabu, who was there, reports

A special training programme organised by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) for senior officials constituting the implementing team of the Federal Government’s Cash Transfers and Homegrown School Feeding programmes in Delta State has ended in Asaba, the state capital.

The two-day training exercise was geared towards equipping the participants with both the philosophical framework and practical steps towards the effective implementation of the programmes in the state. The programme represents an invaluable icing on the cake as the Delta State Government awaits due nod from the federal government to kick-start the much-talked-about related social protection programmes.

Social Protection

United Nations agency, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), defines Social Protection as “the set of public and private policies and programmes aimed at preventing, reducing and eliminating economic and social vulnerabilities to poverty and deprivation. Social Protection is essential to furthering UNICEF’s commitment to the realisation of the rights of children, women and families to an adequate standard of living and essential services.”

Similarly, the Federal Government, while underscoring the relevance of the socio-economic intervention in the ‘Draft National Social Protection Policy: Federal Republic of Nigeria (National Planning Commission)’, defines Social Protection as “A mix of policies and programmes designed for individuals and households throughout the life cycle to prevent and reduce poverty and socio-economic shocks by promoting and enhancing livelihoods and a life of dignity.”

Accountability Need

In his presentation during the training held in Asaba, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Rivers Field Office, Mr. Wilbroad Ngambi, stressed the need for “social accountability” in the implementation especially of the Cash Transfers, warning that all risks and loopholes that would permit any frauds must be identified and guided against.

Ngambi, who noted that cash transfers as a “poverty alleviation or lift above the poverty line” measure of the government has several practical issues, stressed that the implementer or facilitating team must give the government functionaries due professional counsel and avoid all forms of biased exploitation or manipulation of the process from the planning stage to the implementation/monitoring and evaluation stages.

He pointed out that, beyond the social and economic objectives of social protection measures, they are also a human right in line with various articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For instance, Article 22 states, “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security”; while Article 25 stipulates, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living.”

Ngambi emphasised that the process and methodology must be thoroughly appreciated and domesticated so that the implementation is carried out in a manner best suited to the peculiarity of Delta State communities and people, because “definition of the poorest of the poor differs from one community to the other.”

He also encouraged the implementing team(s) for the two lift-above -the- poverty-line programmes to organise well-structured and targeted advocacy to enable them obtain the desired maximal outcomes.

Programme Implementation

Speaking at the event on behalf of the state commissioner for Economic Planning, Dr. Kingsley Emu, the Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Mr. Benjamin Igo, highlighted the efforts so far made by the state government to ensure a hitch-free implementation of the programmes, stressing that human and material resources were being duly mobilised to that effect.

He noted that the Delta State Government has often had a robust working relation with UNICEF, noting that the state had benefited, and was still benefiting, from the assistance of the United Nations agency in several areas.

Igo, who disclosed that the state was practically set to implement the programmes having sent the list of facilitators to Abuja for due approval, identified areas of collaboration with UNICEF to include child survival, including maternal child health, water, sanitation, hygiene and nutrition as well as quality basic education schemes.

Delta State has also benefited immensely from UNICEF support in ensuring child protection aimed at reducing and responding to exploitation, abuse and violence against the child, the permanent secretary said.

While commending the agency for its involvement in the training of the facilitators of Delta State’s Homegrown School Feeding Programme and the Cash Transfers Programme of the Federal Government, Igo noted that UNICEF has “cooperated with the state government in the formulation and implementation of social policies that strengthen Safety Nets vis-à-vis Emergency Readiness.”

He urged the trainees – made up of senior officials drawn from relevant state ministries, departments and agencies as well as political appointees, the civil society and non-governmental groups – to take the training seriously, adding that it would strengthen existing relations with UNICEF in communication and development, which support media, private sector, children and families as well as community organisations.

“This is an opportunity for all of us to learn more about the programmes”, Igo said, adding, “We must pay necessary attention and brace up for the challenges of implementing the programmes successfully, because the state government has put a lot in place, including personnel in the 25 local government areas, in readiness for this.”

Worthwhile Goal

Earlier, the Social Protection Specialist, UNICEF Rivers Field Office, Dr. Annie Maurice Ekanem, stressed that the goal of the training programme included a proper articulation of design/planning, implementation, monitoring, evaluation as well as documentation of the entire process, which would provide the basis for determining its overall success and sustenance.

The Executive Director of the state medium and micro-credit enterprises agency, Mrs. Shimite Bello, was represented by the coordinator/manager, Delta State Homegrown School Feeding Programme, Mr. Eddy Nwamaka; while the Senior Special Adviser to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa on Child Rights Advocacy, Barrister Bridget Anyafulu, and the UNICEF Focal Person in the state ministry of Economic Planning, Mrs. Millicent Amitaye were among participants at the two-day training workshop.

The fact that the state government had decided to augment the huge financial outlay of the school feeding programme underlines the passion Governor Okowa has for human capital development and especially beginning with child rights, Anyafulu told THISDAY.

However, the high-point of the two-day training were the group discussions and demonstration intended to deepen the participants’ understanding of the various dimensions and practical or field issues in the implementation of school feeding and Cash Transfer programmes, preparatory to their takeoff in Delta State.

Executive Commitment

The Nigerian Government is committing N500 billion World Bank loan into the implementation of the Social Protection policy through the Homegrown School Feeding Programme and the Cash Transfers scheme in the different states.

The Delta State Government has made elaborate plans preparations for the takeoff of the programmes in the state with the State ministries of Health, Agriculture and Basic and Secondary Education serving as pivot for the implementation of the Homegrown School Feeding Programme in the state. That is a worthwhile goal.