In Yemen the strain on food security and nutrition is evident. A report by UNICEF states that almost half (45%) of the country’s children experience irreversible stunted growth1. According to the World Food Programme, 2.2 million children in Yemen under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, including more than 540,000 children who suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Child wasting rates in the country are among the highest in the world, with estimates for some areas surpassing 25%.2
To increase access, retention, and completion of education for Yemeni children, Yemen’s Ministry of Education, with support from the World Food Programme, runs an emergency school feeding programme covering 1.8 million3 children. However, the programme faces many challenges, including lack of refrigeration and potable water, poor infrastructure and logistical challenges, thus making access to safe nutrition difficult for many children.
To address the issues of food safety and access to safe nutrition in schools, a collaborative effort between HSA Group (an international conglomerate of Yemeni origin), its subsidiary NADFOOD, Tetra Pak Arabia Area and Tetra Pak Food for Development has been established to serve fortified milk to 10,000 children in Yemeni schools. The packaged UHT milk is processed locally without preservatives and fortified with micronutrients and vitamins to address local nutritional deficiencies. The chosen package to distribute the product safely to schools is Tetra Brik® Aseptic 125ml.
“Yemen’s young people are disproportionately affected by the ongoing food security crisis in the country. This is creating a lost generation of children, whose development and prospects are suffering. We are proud to support this transformative project which aims to alleviate the burden of these challenges on young people, in a period of life that is essential to both intellectual and physical growth. It is our hope that, in partnership with Tetra Pak, we can support the health and wellbeing of Yemen’s young and ambitious population, nurturing talent and unlocking potential.”
–Hisham Ali Mohamed Saeed, Deputy Managing Director for the FMCG Strategic Business Unit at HSA Yemen
Aseptic processing and packaging involve filling sterilised packages with ultra-high temperature (UHT) treated liquids. These processes are critical to the viability of many school milk programmes around the world. In countries with no reliable cold chain and where schools do not have refrigerators or dependable access to electricity, UHT technology enables school milk to be stored for 6 to 12 months without refrigeration while retaining its main nutrients such as protein, calcium and Vitamin D. This ensures that even children in the most remote areas have access to safe, nutritious milk.
By eliminating the need for daily deliveries, transport costs are greatly reduced. This, combined with lower electricity use and reduced waste, makes aseptic packaging a cost-effective solution.
“Food security is a real challenge for children in Yemen, and thanks to our UHT technology we can support in providing 10,000 children with the nutrition they need to grow, while encouraging them to attend school. This is an important project for Tetra Pak Arabia, and we are very pleased to collaborate with our customer HSA Group. Together, we are determined to make a difference for these children.”
–Niels Hougaard, Managing Director Tetra Pak Arabia Area
Receiving regular nutrition should improve the health status of the children and provide them with a positive incentive to attend school, thereby reducing illiteracy rates. Milk in schools that has been locally processed contributes to the healthy growth of children, benefitting their learning capacities, while creating a market for a local product. Development from interventions in the dairy value chain can also create jobs and sustainable livelihoods to address poverty in smallholder dairy farmer households.
“To support NADFOOD and Tetra Pak Arabia, we are sharing our experience and best practices used in School Feeding Programmes worldwide. By collaborating in this way, we can help Yemen’s school milk programme be as efficient and effective as possible, while strengthening the bonds between our organisations for future advancements in the fight against childhood malnutrition.”
–Food For Development Vice President Rafael Fabrega
In order to understand the impacts of school feeding programmes on the educational and health outcomes of children, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) will conduct an impact assessment study. The IFPRI is a global organisation which provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. The study will provide a crucial evidence base for the educational and health benefits of school milk on children.
In addition to its nutritional benefits, an important component of the school milk programme will be the collection of empty beverage cartons after consumption. Children will be taught to flatten the cartons and place them in assigned locations. Besides facilitating collection from schools, this process will ensure that empty beverage cartons do not litter school grounds. Environmental and recycling initiatives, along with awareness activities, will be key components of the programme.
This initiative aims to serve safe fortified UHT milk to 10,000 children across Yemen daily during school days, starting in October 2023. In phase two of the initiative, to broaden the variety of food products for the children, Tetra Pak and HSA Group plan to innovate and develop affordable nutritious, dairy and cereal-based beverage formulations for school feeding in Yemen. Thus, we commit to working in collaboration towards our shared purpose of increasing Yemeni children’s access to safe nutrition.
1 UNICEF, News Item, 07 April 2022
2 World Food Programme, State of Food Insecurity in Yemen, April 2017
3 World Food Programme, News release, 18 August 2023