SANA’A, Yemen — The World Food Programme recently released information reporting that 10.5 million people in Yemen are either hungry or on the verge of hunger. This is nearly half of Yemen’s population.
Of these people classified as hungry, 4.5 million of them are considered to suffer from extreme food insecurity. This means that they require assistance to feed themselves because they cannot otherwise find adequate food and water to survive on a daily basis. The World Food Programme reported that another 5 million Yemenis are in danger of falling into this category as well. Additionally, child malnutrition rates in Yemen are among the highest in the world, with close to half of Yemeni children under 5 years old, nearly 2 million children, affected.
The worsening situation of Yemen’s food insecurity can be attributed to its internal conflicts, political instability, influx in refugees, and maybe most importantly its great dependency on foreign imports. Yemen imports about 90 percent of all of its main food staples including wheat and sugar. This makes the country extremely vulnerable and sensitive to increases in food prices and food shortages.
In light of the worsening situation of hunger in Yemen, however, non-governmental organizations and governments around the world are taking action.
In May of 2014, in order to address the dire situation in Yemen, Germany agreed to contribute $13.8 million to the United Nations World Food Programme. In 2013 alone, Germany, as the second largest donor to WFP in Yemen, was able to reach 5 million people with its funding. WFP Yemen Representative and Country Director Bishow Parajuli explained that Germany’s donation will greatly support funding efforts for eliminating Yemen’s food insecurity by contributing to WFP’s emergency safety net.
On May 30, 2014, the World Food Programme announced the implementation of a two year Recovery Operation in Yemen. It aims to support the Yemeni people in overcoming food insecurity and addressing long-term hunger solutions in the country. This operation is designed to target 6 million people in Yemen over the span of the two years and is valued at $491 million.
The World Food Programme is attempting to increase nutrition intervention efforts by focusing on the five coastal regions of Aden, Hajja, Hodeidah, Lahz and Taiz, where collectively 50 percent of Yemen’s extremely malnourished children reside. Part of the initiative to reduce risk of malnutrition is a feeding program aiming to reach 325,000 children under the age of 2 each month for the next two years. WFP also aims to reach 200,000 children under the age of 5 each month as well as 157,000 pregnant and nursing women.
With this new operation, WFP will also help “create rural employment with labor-intensive work, improve agriculture and water supply, support 200,000 girls in schools with take-home rations, provide a daily snack to 900,000 children, provide life-saving assistance to internally displaced people (IDPs), and support the prevention and treatment of malnutrition among children and mothers,” as explained by WFP press officer Ute Kohler at a press briefing at the U.N. Geneva office.
The United Nations has also reported that the initiative will include assistance with rural infrastructure, rainwater harvesting and treatment and prevention care for acute and chronic malnutrition.
Representative Parajuli noted that this new operation “reflects a gradual shift from providing relief to building recovery and resilience, helping people overcome barriers to food and nutrition security and manage the consequences of conflict.” The World Food Programme is hopeful that this initiative will not only provide immediate support for those in need presently, but also make way for Yemen to be more sustainable regarding food and water in the future.
The World Food Program remains the world’s largest humanitarian organization targeting global hunger, each year helping nearly 90 million people in 80 countries around the world.
With continued donations and proper execution of the plans for this new initiative, Parajuli, as well as WFP and the Yemeni government, are confident that progress will be made over these next two years and that extreme hunger in Yemen will continue to dwindle.