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WFP food aid gives hope to HIV positive primary school pupils

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By Nathi Gule - THE SWAZI TIMES-27-Aug-2009

Hlane - Two HIV positive primary school pupils from Hlane in the Lubombo region have regained hope of successfully continuing with their studies because of the food support they receive at their school

The two pupils, *Jabulisile Nsoko and Mantfombi Vilane, who are in Grade Six and Seven, respectively, at a local school seem to have all odds stacked against them. They live in an area that experiences recurrent drought having received poor and erratic rainfall for over seven years now. The Lubombo region is also one of two regions that have the highest HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women receiving antenatal care.

Not only are they orphaned, but being HIV positive has made life more difficult for them as they have to take medication every day, often on empty stomachs when there is no food at home. However, the two girls eagerly journey to school every morning knowing that they are guaranteed a meal.


The girls rely on food assistance provided by the World Food Programme (WFP) in collaboration with the Government of Swaziland at schools and health facilities. Jabulisile and Mantfombi both receive daily school meals as well as a monthly take-home ration of nutrient fortified corn-soya blend (CSB) from Good Shepherd Hospital where they collect their medication. The CSB is provided to people undergoing anti-retroviral treatment (ART), directly observed treatment short course (DOTS) for tuberculosis patients and Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) at health facilities, as part of the treatment programme.

Jabulisile (15) says she would not cope without the school meals programme because she is never guaranteed food at home. She lives with her unemployed mother, grandmother and eight cousins. Her father passed away in 2004. “I always look forward to going to school because at least I am guaranteed a nutritious meal. In most instances, it is my first and last meal for the day. I am also grateful for the CSB I receive at Good Shepherd Hospital because I now take my medication without fail,” she says.

WFP in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and implementing partner, Save the Children, provides school meals in communities impacted by drought and HIV/AIDS. Beneficiaries of the school meals programme receive a daily food ration comprising 150 grams of cereal, 40 grams of pulses and 15 grams of cooking vegetable oil. School meals are provided to help increase school enrolment and attendance rates. The food also plays a crucial role in improving pupils’ concentration levels during lessons. School meals are provided during the lean season (October-March), which falls on the first and second term of the school calendar. The school meals initiative is part of Government Universal School Meals programme.


Meanwhile, Mantfombi (12) says her health has also improved because she consistently takes her medication now that she has been receiving CSB from Good Shepherd for the past four months. Patients under the programme receive a monthly individual ration of 7.5 kilogrammes of CSB over a period of six months. “I feel much better and have regained strength. I now have strength to walk about five kilometres to and from school because I eat the CSB and take my medication each morning,” says Mantfombi who tested positive after being raped in 2004.

Mantfombi lives with her mother, grandmother, aunts and two younger brothers. The family supplements their food needs with hand-outs from their neighbours. WFP collaborates with the Ministry of Health and the Swaziland National Nutrition Council (SNNC), to provide food support to patients under the ART, DOTS and PMTCT through national hospitals, health centres and clinics.

According to the National Strategic Framework for HIV and AIDS (2009-2014), there is a major gap when it comes to food and nutrition in the case of people living with HIV (PLHIV). While there are efforts to provide psycho-social support at grassroots level by community volunteers, there is a need to strengthen the food and nutrition support to address malnutrition in the context of HIV and AIDS.

An adequate diet, in terms of quality and quantity, is crucial for PLHIV as it provides them with nutrients needed to delay the on-set of AIDS and other opportunistic infections. Good nutrition is also linked to the effectiveness of treatment and improved adherence to a patient’s drug regimen. Buhle Nkambule, a teacher who oversees the school meals programme at Dlalisile Primary School, says food assistance saves lives as it helps the most vulnerable.

“You can only imagine what life would be like for children like Jabulisile and Mantfombi if they did not receive such food support. They would struggle with their school work and most probably would have long abandoned their treatment,” she says. The girls’ education is being funded through government’s bursary for orphaned and vulnerable children (OVC

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