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London, Yemen, and Plumpy’nut

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London has hosted many important conferences over the years. Herbert Hoover received an invitation to one of them almost immediately after arriving in Britain in April 1946. His invitation was to an emergency conference on European food supplies in the aftermath of World War II.

Hoover, then serving as the U.S. food ambassador, made a speech at the conference. He urged action, particularly child feeding for the war-torn countries. Hoover said, “The rehabilitation of children cannot wait. It cannot be postponed until some other day. They are not like a bridge or a factory. They lose ground every day that is lost.”

Infant children, without proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days, can suffer lasting physical and mental damage. That is a key theme of an upcoming conference in London which will focus on malnutrition in Yemen.

Yemen is often in the headlines because of the terrorist elements that plague their society and threaten the United States. More recently, Yemen has also been in the news because of protests by the citizenry against their government.

Less often, though, do you hear of the terrible malnutrition that afflicts the population, with its greatest impact on infants. The UN World Food Programme says that “half of Yemen’s children are chronically malnourished.”

The Yemen malnutrition conference will analyze the crisis at hand, what is being done, and the way forward to ending malnutrition in Yemen. It is problem-solving for the greatest of all threats to Yemeni society: hunger and malnutrition.

ABC News recently presented a special highlighting the miracle food plumpy’nut and how it can save children from dangerous levels of malnutrition. Well, plumpy is something Yemen is in dire need of, and it would not cost very much, relatively speaking, for them to get it.

UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), with enough funding, could treat severely and moderately malnourished Yemeni children. Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF said late last year that “about $31 million will be needed to address both moderate and severe malnutrition country-wide.”

WFP needs about $23 million for its plumpy plan to feed small children. Georgia Warner of WFP says, “270,000 children (6-59 months) would receive targeted supplementary feeding (supplementary plumpy) and 412,000 children (6-24 months) would receive blanket supplementary feeding (plumpy’doz).” This is part of an overall WFP operation aimed at increasing food security amidst high food prices, feeding displaced war victims, and rehabilitating agriculture.

Getting these supplies is the first step, but then you have to also look toward long-term solutions. Minds have to meet, but cooperation between the Yemeni government and the international community must also be forged. There must be political will. With that will come some much-needed funding.

When Hoover spoke in London in 1946, there was a threat of millions of Europeans facing starvation. Food supplies were mustered and a European reconstruction program, the Marshall Plan, started in 1948. The organization UNICEF was formed during this time period. Child feeding and rehabilitation became a top priority.

The Yemen malnutrition conference is being hosted by UNICEF and the Yemen Forum on February 22nd at the Chatham House in London.

For more information about malnutrition in Yemen visit the World Food Programme.

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About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.