CNN is reporting that the Obama administration may be adding military power to fight Al Qaeda in Yemen. This might even include CIA drones, pending the administration's review of the situation.
But one thing that is not being given enough consideration is the hunger and poverty facing Yemen. Even a recent US donation of 13 million in food aid leaves many of the UN World Food Programme's operations in Yemen well short of funding.
A recent press release says WFP in Yemen "remains severely underfunded by 53% for 2010 alone. Given current resources, 85 percent of the 3.1 million monthly beneficiaries will not benefit from planned support in 2010." This includes 100,000 malnourished mothers and children and a Food for Education program that benefited around 115,000 school girls. The take-home rations from this program also provided assistance to the families of the school girls. Another 1.7 million severely food-insecure persons will also be without assistance unless funding increases.
Girls walk home from school in the Rayma governorate of Yemen. WFP Food for Education programs have only had one limited distribution since June 2009. (WFP/Maria Santamarina)
The US donation will help provide aid to 285,000 people displaced by the Sa'ada conflict in northern Yemen. This includes 6.9 million from the Food for Peace program as well as 6 million from the US Bureau for Population Refugees and Migration. Much more needs to be done.
Food security for Yemen is a foundation for development, peace, and stability. The U.S. should appoint a food ambassador, or hunger envoy, to engage the government of Yemen and international partners on a roadmap to end hunger in the country.
Clearly, Yemen is a national security interest to the United States as the CNN report demonstrates. What the Obama administration has to consider now is whether there is going to be a comprehensive strategy going forward for Yemen.
Secretary of State George Marshall stated in 1947 that U.S. foreign policy is "against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos." This is the foreign policy that Americans want to see directed to Yemen.
Regardless of what happens on the military front, if this fall we are still discussing shortage for food aid programs, and if there is no discussion of a roadmap to end hunger in Yemen, then one word will unfortunately describe the Obama's administration's policy for Yemen: failure.