By Ohemeng Tawiah, Nhyira Fm-Kumasi – Development partners who have been providing funds to support the Ghana School Feeding Program have since the beginning of this year, held up on such assistance.
This is because the original objective of implementing the social intervention programme in schools in deprived communities has been abused.
Minister of Local Government and Rural Development, Samuel Ofosu-Ampofo, says Ghana government has had to look elsewhere for funding to sustain the programme.
He was speaking at a day’s sensitization workshop on the reorganization of the School Feeding Program.
The program was attended by Metropolitan, Municipal, District Chief Executives as well as Desk Officers from Ashanti, Brong Ahafo, Northern, Upper East and West regions.
The initiative, introduced by the NPP administration, sought to provide one square meal a day for children in areas of high malnutrition.
The objectives included improvement in enrollment and retention of children in beneficiary schools.
Five years into implementation, however, the program faces challenges, especially, of poor targeting, with schools in urban areas benefitting more than rural communities.
Currently, Ashanti Region has the highest number of over 181,500 beneficiary children, representing 25 per cent of national coverage.
The Bono Ahafo Region follows with 114 thousand, 956 representing 16 per cent, while Upper East Region trails with only three per cent.
There is also no clear-cut government policy guideline to regulate implementation.
In the absence of donor support, government has made a budgetary allocation of 95 million Ghana cedis to keep the program running.
Ghana’s government is targeting to increase the current beneficiary figure of 713,000 to over 1 million forty thousand in September this year.
Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo says stakeholders should contribute to address the challenge.
“And even though government is supporting the program, we have development partners who are also supporting us. And they are dragging their feet in releasing support for the program because they feel that the program was intended to feed children from deprived, malnutrition endemic communities but now what we see is that, it is the metropolitan capitals and metropolitan capitals where the School Feeding Program has been targeted so all of them are dragging their feet”.
According to him, even the major contributor had almost withdrawn from supporting the Ghana School Feeding Program, a situation which compelled government to solely fund the program.
“And in fact the major donor of the program had almost withdrawn from the program. This year, funding for the real feeding grant has come from central government; it is government of Ghana which has released money for the payment of real feeding grant from the beginning of the year till we speak now because of the poor targeting”.
Mr. Ofosu-Ampofo also stressed the need for retargeting of the program.
“The Social Accountability Project will pay attention to both vertical and horizontal linkages across government agencies at all levels”
According to him, the Local Government Ministry will push for a National Policy for the GSFP.
“My ministry will recommend to cabinet for the need for a national policy to guide the program”, he said.