© WFP/Agron Dragaj
The nation of São Tomé and Príncipe covers two islands and several – mostly uninhabited – islets in the Gulf of Guinea. A 190,000-strong, lower-middle-income country with a history of slavery and failed socialist reforms, Sao Tome is heavily indebted and ranked 137th out of 189 in the 2019 Human Development Report.
In 2015, more than 60 percent of the population was estimated to be living below the national poverty line of US$1.70 per person per day, and more than 40 percent lived on less than US$1.25. The mortality rate for children under five was high at 51 per thousand. In the late 2000s, almost a third of Sao Tomean children in that age group were found to suffer from moderate or severe stunting; three in ten were chronically malnourished.
About half of the total land area is devoted to farming, chiefly of export commodities: most nutritious food produced here leaves the country. No cereals are cultivated on the islands; and what little produce is grown for domestic consumption is vulnerable to floods and landslides. Dependence on imports means food availability is unpredictable: there is no deep sea port and in bad weather, landing is difficult on the country’s one short airstrip.
WFP assistance is concentrated on education, which is considered central to poverty reduction. Low educational attainment is partly explained by poor nutrition. Other factors include poverty, lack of access, lack of motivation due to a limited employment market, and teenage pregnancies, which are relatively common.
What the World Food Programme is doing in São Tomé and Príncipe
School mealsWFP provides a daily hot meal to 43,200 primary school children (first to sixth grades). As part of the process, WFP has established kitchens equipped with eco-stoves, storage facilities, parent-teacher associations, teacher monitoring mechanisms and, at many schools, vegetable gardens. The school meals programme is being transitioned to the Government.