Josette Sheeran, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) director, warns of a humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen. Sheeran said last week, “Rising food prices and political instability have left millions of people in Yemen hungry and vulnerable. Malnutrition is stalking the lives of women and children.”
WFP says that even before this year’s political unrest, “more than 50 percent of Yemeni children were chronically malnourished and more than 13 percent were acutely malnourished.”
This year’s chaos in Yemen has made it much harder for these children to gain access to needed foods. Lack of nutrition for children stunts physical and mental growth.
Lubna Alaman, WFP’s Representative in Yemen, says, “The challenges to reach and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable are huge, especially in the midst of a very volatile security situation.”
WFP is feeding displaced persons in Southern Yemen and also in the North, where years of conflict have left nearly half a million people struggling in hunger and poverty.
Nationwide, WFP is running a safety net operation to reach nearly 1.8 million Yemenis impacted by high food prices. However, low funding has severely limited the reach of this mission. WFP relies on voluntary funding from the international community.
Sheeran says that “WFP food assistance provides vital nutrition and stability at a time of great need.” If the program becomes fully funded, more Yemenis can be reached.
While Yemen is immersed in hunger and instability, the U.S. Congress is proposing reducing international food aid programs as part of budget cuts. The savings will be minimal and the consequences disastrous. Food aid programs currently make up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.
Hunger and malnutrition are silent, but are so powerful that they can devastate a population within weeks if left unchecked; or they can slowly weaken the people through prolonged malnutrition. Yemen is caught in this trap.
The international community has to act now to put in place the safety nets which can save Yemen from hunger and malnutrition. There cannot be true change in Yemen as long as malnutrition has free reign.
Article first published as WFP Director Warns of Hunger Threat Stalking Yemen at Blogcritics Magazine.