In Yambio, in southwestern South Sudan – a town known for its agriculture and fertile lands -16-year-old Salwa Anthony and her mother, Grace Martin, are beginning their day.
Now in her final year of primary school, Salwa has big dreams for the future, but faces many challenges.
“My mother struggled a lot and even now she works very hard to pay my school fees and bring us food every day,” she says. “This makes me want to go to school and study very hard to help her in the future.”
Martin is a single mother of two. Along with raising her children and two sisters, she cares for her own mother.
“I had a lot of problems before,” says Martin. “I didn’t have enough money to pay school fees and my children were falling sick because there was not enough food in the house.”
Today, however, Martin works at a community farm, where she has a vegetable plot. She also contributes to improving access to community roads. Both activities are part of a joint project to build resilience, run by UNICEF and WFP and funded by the German Development Bank.
The initiative, which includes training in such areas as post-harvest management and business, has been rolled out in urban areas of South Sudan like Yambio.
It aims to enhance access to safe learning spaces, improve health and nutrition services, and bolster food security for communities. For Martin and her daughter, this support has been transformative, turning dreams into stepping stones for a brighter future.
“Now my children eat at least two meals every day and school fees are a priority,” Martin says.
Food and education
Eating two meals every day, along with going to school, is not something everyone can do in this East African country, where 7.1 million people are food insecure, and 1.65 million children are malnourished. South Sudan also has some of the world’s lowest literacy rates.
WFP school meals ensure students eat at least one nutritious meal daily and promote attendance. This is especially important for girls like Salwa – as 40 percent of girls in South Sudan marry before the age of 18, drop out of school and miss out on higher education.
Salwa, too, is part of the resilience-building initiative. Schools like hers – St. Bakhita Primary, where WFP provides school meals to more than 1,400 students – are not only teaching subjects like science but are also offering essential life skills and empowerment.
Gender equality and awareness about gender-based violence – for both girls and boys – are integral parts of the curriculum. They ensure a well-rounded education that prepares students for the challenges of the real world, and helps build more equitable communities.
Additionally, Salwa’s education includes practical agricultural skills. She contributes to the school’s garden, which supplements the WFP meals with fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I use what I learn at school to take care of our vegetable garden at home,” she says.
The family’s now-flourishing garden provides nutritious food and extra income earned from selling the surplus produce.
But Salwa doesn’t want to be a farmer when she grows up.
“My favorite subject is science,” she says. “I like it a lot because I want to be a doctor in the future and help people.”
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of World Food Programme (WFP).