'If You Want To Be A Doctor, You Need School'
One of the benefits of school meals programmes is that they encourage parents in poor countries to send young girls to school. This means they get an education and, hopefully, the means to pull themselves out of poverty. Without that incentive, school may not be an option – as Salama and Naima found out recently.
AL-BAHRI, YEMEN -- Salama al-Amry draws plastic buckets of water from a well and loads them onto a donkey, before heading home for more housework.
"We went to school," the young girl said, walking down a dusty path with her sister Naima. "But our dad withdrew us because we didn't have any clothes or books or anything."
While education should be a universal right, it is a luxury for many girls in the impoverished Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, where the United Nations Development Programme estimates only about four in ten go to school. But food rations distributed by the World Food Programme to young pupils on a quarterly basis are changing that trend.
"It is increasing enrollment and attendance of girls in Yemen, which is very important," said WFP Country Director Gian Carlo Cirri. "The second objective is that it creates a safety net where the entire family can benefit from food on a regular basis."
Now, funding shortfalls are forcing WFP to cut back on its Food for Education for girls here - along with rations targeting thousands of displaced people.
The impact may be profound for this arid country, where malnutrition rates are the third highest in the world -- and where some 2.5 million Yemenis are severely food insecure.
"And this is creating, of course, less incentive for the girls to go to school," Cirri added.
For Salama and her four sisters, who live in Yemen's western governorate of Raima -- the most food-insecure region in the country -- the fallout was immediate. When they stopped bringing home WFP wheat rations, Father Abdo Abdo Al-Amry ended their studies.
"It's better to keep them at home rather than go to school," he said. "I am a poor person."
But Salama knows her future is limited without an education.
"With school, you can be a doctor, but without school you cannot," she said. "You cannot be anything without studying."
Find out more about WFP's Focus on Women