Ivory Coast: fighting hunger and malnutrition in schools

Fatou Mosun

Ivory coast (also known as  Côte d’Ivoire)   has a population of 29 Million . Children ages 0-14 years constitute 41% of the total population. Of the total population, over ten percent(3.1Million) are facing hunger. Statistics also show more than 23% of children in Ivory Coast are stunted due to malnutrition.  Other  statistics indicate children’s nutrition in the country could me more and affirmed it is actually  at 40% children suffer from malnutrition.  

The reason for the above is not farfetched. $6% of total population live below the poverty line. Government’s efforts of improving sizeable number of the population into middle-class in the its five-year National development plans, which ends in 2025, is yet to make significant impact

Birth of ONG Food for Kids

Food for Kids was founded after a long period of reflection based on how to help kids to continue their studies as a result of many drop-outs because of the lack of food in the school canteens. Prior to its inception, there was a gap in primary schools where there were no or not enough foods in their canteens to feed the kids.

ONG Food for Kids food distribution to schools

This lack of food in primary schools’ canteens accounted for a significant number abandoning their studies and prefer to go to their parent’s farms, aiming at helping their parents with a possible guarantee of having some food to eat. This situation became so sad and worrisome and informed the birth of Food For Kids with a strong passion to correct this inequality. Also, during a trip to India in 2019, with a visit to an organization called Akshaya Patra Foundation, the vision became clearer when a model that works elsewhere was found.

ONG Food distribution

ONG Food for Kids started in August 2020 with registration and initial distribution of rice, tomato, pasta, oil and some other goods to primary school canteens. According to the President of the organisation, Caroll Yao  “Focusing on children is extremely essential for us because it is important to help children focus on their studies”.

One other reason for Food for Kids focus on children according to Yao is “In a country like Côte d’Ivoire where 75% of the people are under 35 years old, we have to make sure that the young generation is prepared for the next challenges”.

Food distributions for school kitchens by ONG

Food distributions for school kitchens by ONG

A country with a young population cannot neglect the importance of having an education of quality for them.  The major concern of ONG Food for Kids now is to distribute supplies of foods into several school canteens so that the children have lunch. One major project which is ongoing is building a kitchen in town called Guitry. This is in the south west part of the country. The kitchen is projected to cook food 2 or 3 days per week depending on the need, and deliver to the canteens around. This will encourage the kids to stay at school. 

The Initiator

Yao, based in Côte d’Ivoire has a background in law and she presently serves as an Advisor to the Prime Minister of Côte d’Ivoire. Her interest spans across circular economy, climate finance and renewable energy. I have a high interest in subjects such as politics, circular economy, environment protection and children education.

Caroll Emmanuel Yao, President ONG Food for Kids

ONG Food for kids’ strategy and game plan

ONG fights for school children across Ivory Coast to ensure they all have quality meals to go to school with.  Beyond just distributing food, ONG food for kids is involved in strategic advocacy where Yao often speaks at strategic conferences of relevant stakeholders who can help in shaping the right policy in the country.

Caroll Yao at Rotary Club Abidjan Speaking on “Food and nutrition for Children”

Yao had spoken at a Rotary club conference in Abidjan among others. Using such a platform, she often challenges stakeholders to push for excellent children nutrition across the country

Using special seasons, Christmas for outreach by ONG Food for Kids

Part of ONG Food for Kids strategy is to use international day, festival and Christmas time to launch its advocacy. The goal behind this is the fact that many return to their villages and districts in such festive season and holiday time. Turnouts for such events are always massive with much impact.

ONG Food for Kids Sport engagement with Food Bank Ivory Coast

ONG Foods for Kids also engages in strategic collaboration to achieve its goal of reaching a wider audience. According to Yao “We once collaborated with Food Bank Ivory Coast for a sport event that allowed us to build strategic engagement with other stakeholders we might have been unable to engage in the area of sport”.

Aside from ONG food for kids’ focus on children malnutrition, it often also provides food and support for women cooperative and related organization as occasion demands

On support

Apart from personal efforts, there have been other corporate bodies and individuals who believe in the vision and had given generously towards the cause. According to Yao, “Every worthwhile vision must first begin with an individual but over time, if it is actually beneficial, it will attract people of like mind. So ours is not different. The changes we see in ensuring zero malnutrition of Children in Ivory Coast is huge so we will keep pressing and asking for more. This is possible as we are committed to this goal.”

Impact, beneficiaries speak

  ONG’s major impact is seeN through actions and the numbers of lives it has reached across the nation. The impact is not only on children, but women too though its target are children.

“In fact, in all the schools where we’ve been, the attendance always surpassed our planned and initial figure due to the fact that kids have lunch at the canteen. With added good nutrition to the lives of the children in all of these schools, the phenomenon growth results had been noted. We can see an improvement in the success rate per year in many schools where we’ve been going from 5% to 15%. This to me encourages us to do more,” Yao affirm.

ONG Food for Kids project impacts

“It is also an obvious fact that many people are very proud and happy of what we do. They encourage the initiative. The deluge of requests that continue to come in daily shows we still have a long way to go. One of the villagers in one of the districts ONG food for kids in Subiakro, Yamoussoukro districts, Mano La Taille, could not hide his feelings after our outreach said ‘Thank you a lot to ONG for this humanitarian act in my village in Subiakroo village in Yamoussoukro district’”.

Future project

ONG Food for kids has commenced the construction of Guitry Kitchen which when completed will provide about 2000 lunch meals a day for children across schools and districts in Ivory Coast

The plan for the future is first, to finish the construction of its kitchen and start providing meals to the canteens.

At the ongoing construction of Guitry Kitchen of ONG Food for Kids

After the construction of the first kitchen, ONG food for Kids will build another kitchen in another region. Hopefully the ultimate goal is to have a network of 5 to 10 kitchens across the country. This will allow the organisation to keep helping many school canteens each year.

“With this, our commitment and passion for quality education in Ivory coast will gain the kind of credibility we desire,” Yao stated.

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