YEMEN — The United Nations World Food Programme has recorded a five-fold increase in the number of people that it has helped in hard to reach areas in Yemen through an innovative food voucher program that cooperates with a local supplier.
In July, the WFP was able to provide food aid to 55 thousand people using the local supplier’s network in the Taiz governorate district of Al Qahira.
Purnima Kashyap, WFP County Director in Yemen, says that the recent success in expanding voucher assistance for food aid to Yemen is seen as a major breakthrough that allows the WFP to reach anyone who needs assistance.
Kashyap continues to point out that WFP intervention not only helps the people, but capitalizing on the existing market provides a boost to the local economy.
The program works through the Community-Voucher through Traders’ Network project that allows WFP to supply food commodities to families through a contracted retailer in exchange for vouchers.
Since the program’s February launch in Sana’a city, it has expanded to other parts of Yemen, providing food aid to 600 thousand people. That is quite the jump from 120 thousand prior to its inception.
But why is food aid to Yemen needed?
Even before fighting broke out in Yemen early last year, the country was home to the lowest GDP per capita in the Arab world. In the area of human development, Yemen’s life expectancy ranks 160th out of 188 in the world at a whopping 64 years of age.
Over the past year or so, armed conflict has left thousands of people dead and some two and a half million more displaced within the nation’s own borders. Yemen’s infrastructure has reportedly been all but obliterated with major damage to roads and airports.
This civil conflict is between forces loyal to the President, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, and Zaidi Shia rebels known as Houthis. Rebel forces ousted Hadi from the capital city in February of last year. The situation is complicated, as Yemen’s security forces have split loyalties, as reported by the BBC.
Instability in the region has allowed al Qaeda to pressure the small nation on the Arabian peninsula, as the terrorist organization has conducted numerous attacks from the south and southeast.
Neighboring countries are also intervening, as a coalition of Arab states including Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and Saudi Arabia have responded to requests for intervention from the displaced president.
Conflict is nothing new to Yemen. In fact, up until 1990, it existed as two separate countries: the Yemen Arab Republic in the north and the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south. Unification, while it has lasted, has not been peaceful.
Tensions over a balance of power resulted in a 1994 civil war in which the southerners attempted to secede. Instability, displacement, weak governance and resource depletion have kept the poorest nation in the Middle East from achieving economic prosperity.
While WFP assistance does not solve the problems that Yemen faces, it does provide relief to those who are hungry and in need of food.
In the past several months alone, WFP has been able to increase the number of people it has reached five times over in . With continued assistance in the form of food aid to Yemen, there is no telling how many more people they can help.
– Aaron Parr