Joint Message on School Health and Nutrition in the context of COVID-19 in Eastern and Southern Africa

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As a mitigation measure against the COVID-19 pandemic, 199 countries globally have undertaken school closures, which keeps over 1.6 billion children out of school (91% of total enrolled learners) as of 20 April 2020. In Eastern and Southern Africa, 24 countries* covered by UNICEF and/or WFP have undergone country-wide school closures. This leaves at least 120 million children and youth in the region not able to attend school (preprimary, primary, lower secondary and upper secondary). This will have a negative impact not only on children’s right to education but also on other human rights including the right to food as well as other related risks (e.g. increased protection risks). More than 16 million affected school-children in the region rely on school meals and nutrition services: either it’s the only meal they consume in the day or it contributes a significant part of their daily nutrient requirements. Although it is difficult to predict how long school closures will last, health specialists argue that it might become a prolonged crisis, therefore it is crucial that governments take immediate measure to prioritize the provision of healthy and nutritious food for children in two different cases: where schools remain closed and schools re-open.