This month the UN World Food Programme (WFP) will launch an emergency safety net operation to provide rations to hungry Yemeni families. However, only four out of 14 intended areas, or governorates, in Yemen will receive the rations. GianCarlo Cirri, WFP's Yemen director, says, "We would need additional funding to cover for the 10 remaining governorates."
Yemen is currently experiencing massive political instability with a powerful protest movement pitted against long-time President Saleh. Food instability has been raging for years in the poorest country in the Middle East.
One in three Yemenis suffers from hunger and struggles to access basic foods. High food prices are a serious crisis for many families, as prices continue to rise. The WFP plan is to provide some rations as a safety net in areas of the country where food insecurity is highest. This "Assistance to Vulnerable Populations" takes on even more importance in light of the surge in political unrest.
The international community should have funded this food emergency plan. By not doing so, we will allow an already tenuous situation in Yemen to become much worse. Millions of suffering and hungry Yemenis will be a severe detriment to achieving stability in the country.
Food security is a sector in Yemen which can be boosted in the short and long term if there is enough political will. As it stands now, initiatives that fight hunger are not being given the priority they deserve by the policymakers.
Food not only wards off malnutrition and disease in a population, but also can open the door for improvements in other sectors. The WFP Food for Education program, which provides family rations distributed at school, helps boost class attendance. This program, though, has not received any funding. Food for Education's last distribution, which was a limited one, took place a year ago.
Yemen is currently at a tipping point. It faces political upheaval, Al Qaeda's presence, unemployment, lack of education especially for women, high levels of hunger and poverty, and water shortages. The people of Yemen have to determine whether and how they will meet these challenges.
There are certainly ways we can help. But tragically, we are missing one golden opportunity by not fully supporting the WFP hunger relief mission in Yemen. We stand a much better chance of a peaceful and prosperous Yemen if we can help the people fight off hunger and want.