Japan donates fish to school children in Burundi

WFP’s school meals programme promotes access to education through nutrition and helps to break the circle of poverty and malnutrition. (Image source: World Food Programme)

A contribution of fish that are high in protein, vitamins, and minerals, mackerel are being supplied by government of Japan (WFP) to 270,000 pupils in the most food-insecure regions, supported by World Food Programme (WFP)

“I want to work in finance and ensure that my family has a good life,” said, Niyibizi a14-year-old  student at a primary school in Muyinga province in northern Burundi.

Niyibizi is one of over 500,000 children in more than 700 schools who receive daily school meals which include rice, maize flour, beans, and leafy greens through what is called homegrown school feeding.

This is a form of resilience-building for communities facilitated by the World Food Programme (WFP), empowering communities with the agricultural skills and resources they need to become totally self-reliant – in growing crops they supply schools with the ingredients they need to facilitate a diverse diet for the children.

Since 2019, the government of Japan scaled-up assistance supplying school children with food of a different sort – fish!

Malnutrition rates for children aged under five for both Kirundo and Muyinga provinces are at 57% and 62% respectively. 

Niyibizi’s parents are smallholder farmers who live five kilometres away from his school. One meal per day is the norm in this family and a daily hot lunch is a motivating factor for him to make the long journey to and from school by foot.

Amina Niyomukiza is also a student at Gisanze primary school. She wants to finish school, study at university, and eventually work for government, maybe even in the president’s office, she said.

For rural families like Niyibizi’s and Amina’s – who depend on tiny pieces of land to feed many mouths – maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is a challenge. WFP’s school meals programme promotes access to education through nutrition and helps to break the circle of poverty and malnutrition.

“Mackerel contains proteins which are important for physical and intellectual growth in children,” stated Niamkeezoua Kodjo, a nutritionist for WFP in Burundi.

“It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are essential for brain development and vitamins and minerals which ensure bone growth”. 

Last year, the government of Burundi contributed US$2.5mn to the school meals programme. It has identified school meals as the largest and most important safety net for vulnerable people in the country.