CIVIL Society Scaling-up Nutrition (CSO-SUN) Alliance country coordinator Mathews Mhuru has called on government to ensure resources meant for social protection programmes are not misapplied as this leaves the intended beneficiaries at a higher risk of food insecurity.

In an interview, Mhuru said the pulling out of the World Food Programme (WFP) in the school feeding programme should call for more commitment from government as opposed to misapplying funds.

“We are very disappointed to learn that money that is meant to go towards the school feeding programme was misapplied and just misused because since 2019, we have a situation where one of the major stakeholders in the school feeding programme, the World Food Programme (WFP), who were contributing a significant amount of money to the school feeding programme, they pulled out and so the bulk of the monies that are going into the programme now is on government. So, just that withdrawal from the cooperating partners, such as the World Food Programme, should have meant that our government is looking for more resources to pump into the school feeding programme so that the number of children that they were reaching with WFP on board, is not compromised. But when you hear stories of government and the Ministry of Education misusing monies that are meant to support learners with food, especially in the time of droughts and floods and just food security being compromised, is very disappointing,” Mhuru said.

“And we are making a call on government to really see how they can strengthen systems to ensure that monies are not stolen; monies are not misused; monies are not misapplied when it comes to important social protection programmes because at the end of the day, it’s the vulnerable people that are at a huge risk of just being malnourished or just being food insecure and just facing severe cases of hunger. So, we don’t expect government to really leave this case as it is, we expect them to take action and bring those that have misappropriated this money to book.”

He also expressed concern over revelations that farming inputs that were paid for were not delivered.

“It’s also sad to learn that in the Ministry of Agriculture under FISP a lot of inputs that were planned for, and especially if you look at groundnuts and soya beans, that could actually change the food production picture and promote more crop diversification in the different parts of the country were not delivered, so it’s really sad that monies have been spent, and companies that are charged to take farming inputs to the farmers have not done that and we are not hearing anything from government. So, this is really sad because it’s not helping the country to come out of the food insecurity situation. So, we are just hoping that appropriate action should be taken and those that are at the front of this challenge are all brought to book and are made to account for the problems that they are causing our food and nutrition security situation as a country,” he added.

And Mhuru called on government to incorporate the right to food in the country’s laws so that the politicisation of relief food could be done away with.

“One of the rights that have been adopted by the United Nations and a number of countries in Africa are incorporating the right food in their laws so that whenever people are faced with severe cases of food insecurity and hunger, it becomes the State’s role to take food supplies that meet the dietary needs of the people to them. In Zambia, we have a situation where floods, droughts and other effects are increasing just the food security at household-level and just in different parts of the country. So, if we could have the right to food aspect being adopted by our government, we would be in a situation whereby government is mandated to take relief food that meets the dietary needs unlike the maize and mealie meal that we have been seeing to the people that need this particular food without any political lines,” said Mhuru.

“I think it’s very disappointing for us to learn of places where elections will be happening, and the DMMU being in the forefront to take relief food, even when they are not in need of relief and at the expense of places that are in emergency stages that are affected by floods, that are affected by droughts that needs this food. And just the inconsistencies as well because you would hear the Disaster Management (& Mitigation) Unit inform the nation that they are taking, for example, 2,000 metric tonnes of relief maize to hunger-hit areas such as Lunga, Gweembe as well as Shang’ombo. But when you get on the ground, you realise that the last time relief food was given by the DMMU would have been probably three months before they even made an announcement. So, all these inconsistencies will be dealt with if we adopt the right to food approach as a country as well.”

The Auditor General in its 2019 report revealed that the Ministry of General Education misapplied K2,030,195 meant for Primary Education – Home Grown School Feeding and Secondary Educations programmes on administrative activities.