The New York Times published a feature this week titled "Is Yemen the Next Afghanistan?" This article and others should spur much-needed debate and action for a peace strategy in Yemen.
This is a country with an Al Qaeda presence, as well as a conflict in the North between the government and rebels. It's also a country with high levels of hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) is working on the food security angle to the crisis facing Yemen. Maria Santamarina is one of the WFP officers trying to build support for helping one of the most food-insecure countries in the world. In Yemen, one in three people suffer from hunger.
Some of Maria’s recent work has focused on a Food for Education program designed to help children escape Yemen’s poverty trap. She shares her writing with us:
“For some 800,000 vulnerable Yemenis like Abdo and his family, there is some hope thanks to the Food for Education programme. 'This programme has changed our community. Not only has it provided families with vital food support, but it has made a huge difference in the number of girls enrolled. Before, we only had 18 girls at the school – now there are 61,' said Mohammed, the Principal of Anwar school.
"Arwa, second grade, sits on a bag of WFP wheat in the courtyard. Like many in Yemen, where births are often not recorded, she does not know her exact age. For Arwa and her family of 7, money and food are very limited, and they rely on bread and milk for all meals. 'The most important part of my going to school is to receive the support provided by WFP; we need this food for our home.' "
There is no doubt that Food and Education for all children in Yemen could bring about amazing change. This is one area where WFP, the government of Yemen and international partners could really work together.
Child in Yemen receiving take-home rations are part of WFP's school feeding. Low funding for WFP has allowed for only one school feeding distribution since June, 2009. (Maria Santamarina/WFP)
However, low funding from the international community has devastated the initiative. Maria writes: