When you can fight hunger and give a child hope at the same time, you can change the world. We have seen this time and time again over the years with school feeding.
For Yemen, feeding and educating its children is crucial to building the stability and peace it needs. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) has some innovative ways of helping Yemen achieve this.
First is through a Food for Education program which accomplishes two goals at once. To encourage attendance of girls to class, WFP provides take-home food rations. This not only boosts the attendance at school, but helps feed an entire family. You fight hunger and you boost education with one act.
The Food for Education program provides girls with take-home rations that can feed an entire family. (WFP/Maria Santamarina)
With about 10 million Yemenis facing hunger, food assistance programs like this are desperately needed.
WFP spokesperson Barry Came says 53,000 girls are currently receiving the rations. When you add the fact that their entire family benefits, then 371,000 Yemenis are being helped with this food. The rations consist of wheat and vegetable oil which are distributed in two or three rounds over the course of the school year.
The problem becomes keeping this initiative funded, which has been very difficult for some years. WFP was not even able to run the program for a period of time. In addition, more children could be reached with additional funding.
WFP relies on voluntary funding from governments and the public. A grant, for instance, from the U.S. McGovern-Dole school meals program could make a significant difference in the reach of Food for Education. Right now the program is short $5 million.
WFP also has school feeding for refugee children. Thousands of Somalis have fled the conflict and hunger in their homeland, to find refuge in Yemen. WFP is helping refugee children by providing meals at school.
At the Kharaz refugee camp, in the deserts of southern Yemen, WFP is feeding about 4,500 Somali boys and girls at two primary schools. In addition, WFP is also feeding 4,500 more children, many of which are Somalis, at a school in the Al Basateen district of Aden.
Somali refugee children in Yemen having school breakast from the World Food Programme (WFP/Barry Came)
Came says all children at the school receive the meals “in the belief that it helps to integrate the two communities.” The school feeding for Somali refugees currently faces a $1.7 million shortage in funds.
No nation can progress without healthy and educated children. School feeding provides an opportunity for Yemen to make progress, but it will depend on the support of the international community going forward.