New School Nutrition Projects Encourages Female Education

National Yemen

Girls students in the exam room

Asma al-Mohattwari

Food insecurity and malnutrition continue to negatively affect the social and economic development ofYemen, where the rates of unemployment, poverty, school dropouts, and child mortality, is increasing. To alleviate this problem, some international organizations in cooperation with local institutions have tried to provide support and assistance. Last week, teams from the School Nutrition Project at the Ministry of Education started the distribution of food aid to poor families as part of the implementation of the nutritional support project provided by the World Food Program, which also has additional benefits for girl’s education.

Considering that more than 10.5 million people are food insecure, and no less than 10 million people inYemensuffer from severe to moderate malnutrition, WFP representative inYemenand Country Director Mr. Bishow Parajuli wasn’t exaggerating when he recently described malnutrition as the “loss of an entire generation” of Yemenis.

Parajuli presented that the food security update for Yemen, which revealed that 43% of population in the country can be classified as “food insecure” in 2013. Parajuli said that 10 million people are food insecure, with 4.5 million of those people being severely food insecure.

The School Nutrition Project’s General Director in the Ministry of Education, Hamoud Mohammed al-Akhram, says that the assistance program aims to support the poorest families in remote areas. Currently, the nutrition project distributes food to 382 349 poor families spread over 114 districts in 8 provinces: Rima, Ibb, Hajja, Amran, al-Dhala, al-Baydha, al-Mahweet and Taiz. The total aid to be distributed is 19 827 tons, of which 19 117 tons are of flour, and 710 of oil. This means one bag of flour, and 5.1 liters of oil, for per family.

Food Security

According to World Food Program, the program helps five million people inYemen. The targeted families have been chosen based on field surveys within international norms and standard, as well as indicators taken from the field. The program also seeks to specifically confront starvation among newborn children, pregnant and lactating mothers, and displaced people. The organization says that more than half a million children are malnourished, and that there are nearly 600 000 displaced persons from various conflicts inYemen.

“The program also supports the local economy in Yemen. Recently, program begun to focus on purchasing materials locally to support the national trade and economy, as well as local transportation. It is also depends on the traders and potential that exists in Yemen,” Parajuli said.

Elham al-Nuziali, one of the project’s workers, said that working in these areas adds more than just material benefit. “There are many people are suffering from the deteriorating economic situation and such projects contribute to raise their level and their support financially and psychologically.”

Girls Education Encouragement

Additionally, the Ministry of Education has begun a girls’ education project in all provinces. There is a large gap between male and female education inYemen, with dropout rates being much higher among girls than boys.  “Such projects motivate the families to re-send their daughters to school again,” al-Nuziali said of the World Food Program’s efforts at combating starvation.

Al-Nuziali said that since the school nutrition project came to her area, the parents encouraged sending their daughters to school, especially since it’s a stipulation of the assistance. “Since that time, the number of school girls is increasing and maybe if they find more grants, it will provide more opportunities for more girls and encourage their parents to send them to school.”

Amal Abdullah Suaiban from Amran governorate said that in her area there is only one school, one female teacher and also the school is mixed boys and girls. “Because there is not a school for girls, the number of girls who go to school is very low. Some years ago the number was two to four girls.”

In his part, Mohammed Hamoud from the Siran directorate said that people in rural areas suffering from poverty and lack of services require girls at home in order to support the household, “but the nutrition project has encouraged families to send their daughters to school, since it helps the family to face the difficult economic conditions experienced by people of the area.”

Parajuli also said that new projects designed to combat malnutrition will be implemented over the next year, which will encourage people to continue education as motivated by the provision of nutrition through the schools.

 “The project will encourage girls to attend school in all Yemeni governorates, support the local committees and development in rural areas in Yemen, including the construction of terraces and supporting agriculture, in addition to support income-generating projects at the level of the individual,” said Parajuli “as the program focuses on rainwater harvesting project to combat the drought crisis that has Yemen are suffering from, in addition to many other projects.”