77 schools in South-Western Uganda have embraced SNV's school milk programme, giving 34,000 children the much needed nutritious breakfast.
The programme is part of a four year (2015-2019) dairy project – The Inclusive Dairy Enterprise (TIDE) project being implemented by SNV and its partners with funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands. One of the TIDE project’s focus is on improving the nutrition status of school going children through promotion of school milk in six districts (Kiruhura, Mbarara, Sheema, Isingiro, Bushenyi and Ntungamo) in South-Western Uganda.
A majority of school-going children in South-Western Uganda attend day schools and the greatest percentage of these schools do not provide a mid-day meal. Children leave home very early, often with no breakfast, and study on empty stomachs until the end of the day. They experience short-term hunger which leads to poor concentration in class and subsequently, poor performance. Through the programme, SNV aims to reduce the malnutrition rates in the region (stunting is at 42%) by eliminating short-term hunger and increasing the dietary diversity score among school-going children.
Inadequate dietary diversity and disease have been cited as some of the underlying causes of malnutrition. Consumption of milk contributes directly to the eight essential nutrients (energy, carbohydrate, fat, water, vitamins, minerals, protein and minor biological protein and enzymes) required for growth and development. “What we are trying to do is address the causes of malnutrition holistically. Our first step was to tackle one of the causes; inadequate intake of food. We chose milk because it is a complete and readily available food in the region. We are now working towards addressing the second cause of malnutrition, which is disease. For a child to be healthy, we have to ensure that the food they eat is absorbed by the body and not by some unwanted hosts within their bodies such as worms. We are working with the six districts to implement Vitamin A supplementation and deworming during the family health days for all children in the primary schools that have adopted the school milk programme,” Fredrick Kizito, SNV Nutrition Advisor and President - Uganda Dietetic Association elaborated.
SNV is implementing a national pilot for the national school feeding and nutrition policy guidelines under a Memorandum of Understanding between TIDE, Ministry of Education and Sports, Ministry of Health and Dairy Development Authority. The different actors under the MOU will jointly monitor and evaluate the project progress and document success stories with the aim of a possible national scale up. The programme is anchored in public private sector engagement to promote milk consumption as part of daily school meals. Parents were made aware of the benefits of the school milk programme and encouraged to contribute to the purchase of milk for their children. It is the parents’ responsibility to mobilise funds to buy milk and other consumables like firewood to boil the milk. “Parents have embraced the school milk programme because they want their children to have something to eat while in school despite the famine in the villages. Pupil attendance has increased and a number of neighbouring schools have expressed interest in bringing their children to our school after hearing about our programme,” Muhozi Robert, Head Teacher Bujaga Integrated Primary School Mbarara District.
On average 30,800 litres of milk are consumed daily by the 77 schools. The milk is purchased for 1,000 UGX a litre from cooperatives and collection centres located near the schools. This has boosted rural dairy farmers’ income, who now have an assured demand for their milk during the school term. SNV plans to scale the school milk programme in 2017 to 500 schools, reaching 200,000 children.