A report in the New York Times said the United States is launching attacks against Al Qaeda in Southern Yemen. But while the U.S. is stepping up the pressure militarily, it also needs to help Yemenis fight hunger and malnutrition.
The conflict between President Saleh and those seeking his removal has made food prices skyrocket. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says that "prices of main food commodities have increased from April to May 2011: wheat flour, sugar, vegetable oil and rice prices have increased by 10%, 4%, 13% and 8% respectively. Since January 2011, the prices for these commodities increased by 26% on average." The domino effect of hunger is fast-moving.
WFP just sent teams to the four most food-insecure governorates (Rayma, Amran, Hajja, and Ibb) in the country to see what toll the price increase is taking. This is the silent war in Yemen, the one against hunger that often unfolds behind closed doors, out of sight, and particularly in rural areas.
WFP found "that food prices are higher in rural areas when compared to the prices in urban areas" and "that the poorest have now opted for negative coping mechanisms, such as reducing number of meals, no consumption of meat/fish, and even fasting."
A hungry, desperate population will make Yemen that much more unstable and dangerous. It will aggravate existing political tensions. It can create the kind of chaos that allows forces like Al Qaeda to thrive.
Even before the recent political unrest and violence, food prices were high for many Yemenis. A large portion of their monthly income would go toward buying basics like bread. This has long been the poorest country in the impoverished Middle East.
Last year, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) devised a strategy to distribute food rations to 1.8 million Yemenis. The plan was to operate in 14 governorates where hunger rates were the highest.