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Study shows need to strengthen food aid for children of school going age


A recent study on the impact of covid-19 on food security of children indicate that Government needs to strengthen its food aid for children of school going age in order to prevent food insecurity which would harm children in the long term.

The study was conducted by an NGO, Innovation for Poverty Action in partnership with Pennsylvania University and Imperial College, London.

The study said as Covid-19 emergency threats unfold, it is clear that the economic repercussions on families in Ghana will be hard, especially for urban informal workers that depends on day to day jobs.

These categories of workers are likely to lose key sources of income, with the consequences of increased challenges in meeting their daily food needs.

Further, a new study conducted in Ghana finds that even transitory spells of food insecurity can have long-term implications on child development through impaired education and health. The study used data collected over three years for children and their parents. It also examined how food insecurity at home was associated with early childhood development outcomes, including learning (maths, reading), short-term memory, socioemotional well-being and self-regulation (a measure of the child’s ability to behave in order to achieve her goals).

The longitudinal nature of the data, examine how the occurrence and persistence of food insecurity at home for children during early childhood is associated with children’s learning achievements in the first years of primary school.

The study found that children from households that were ever food insecure had lower literacy, numeracy and short-term memory. Even transitory spells of food insecurity at home predicted decreased numeracy, short-term memory, and self-regulation, compared with children from never food-insecure households.

These new findings are timely given the current context of a global pandemic where economic activity is slowing and people’s livelihoods are at risk.

So, what can be done?

It is key that the government strengthens efforts to safeguard the food security needs of households with children in order to avoid lasting repercussions on Ghanaian youth, and on the country’s overall development path.

The government has been providing food aid consisting of daily disbursement of hot meals to the vulnerable in lockdown areas. The government spends GH₵5 on each pack of food to feed over 400,000 people under this social safety net program. Government is also offloading food items to faith-based organizations to share to needy individuals and communities in the most affected areas.

These emergency initiatives could be further strengthened by combining them with existing social safety nets, like the LEAP programme (a cash transfer), in order to strengthen support for most affected households such as urban daily laborers that might have lost all their income sources due to the lockdown.

Also, schools can be used as a platform to distribute food that is cooked on-site, as done in Jamaica or in some states in India. This measure would also support school feeding caterers and their food providers. A door-to-door distribution and distribution in a phased manner could help address the current challenge of overcrowding in clear violations of the social distancing protocol.

The government can also harness the potential presented through the food disbursement program to communicate key messages about the COVID-19 epidemic, including on social distancing and other recommended practices.

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