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Protests in Food-Insecure Yemen

We have seen the news flooding in about protests against the President of Yemen. Whether this turns out to be another Egypt is anyone’s guess, but it’s past time to pay attention to Yemen.

Laura Kasinof reported this weekend on the protests and violence in the city of Taiz in Southern Yemen. Taiz is the capital of a governorate which carries the same name.

Labeled as food-insecure, Taiz is one of the areas of Yemen where malnutrition is high. People there struggle to access basic foods.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) says, “acute malnutrition in children and women appears to be concentrated in five governorates: Al-Hodieda, Dhamar, Hajja, Ibb and Taiz together have 61.5 percent of all acutely malnourished children below the age of 5 and 57.7 percent of all acutely malnourished women between 15 and 49 years.”

WFP is including Taiz, along with 13 other governorates, in an emergency safety net operation to provide some relief from hunger. A food ration will be delivered to families susceptible to shocks like high food prices. It’s a form of stability for a family as it navigates the treacherous waters of poverty. About 1.8 million Yemenis will benefit.

But WFP is low on funding from the international community. This component of its operation needs $29 million—and quickly. Other aspects of the WFP mission in Yemen are also underfunded. This includes Food for Work to support agriculture and nutritional programs for women and children.

Food for Education is also short about $16 million in funding for 2011. This initiative would provide food rations at school for children to take home. When you add up the students and their families, you have over 900,000 Yemenis benefiting. This take-home ration program stimulates school attendance, which will improve literacy rates. Since there is no funding, this program continues to sit on the shelf.

The price of no Food for Education is staggering. After the program was suspended again last year, WFP’s Georgia Warner said, “We’re watching a drop-out rate of nearly 60% as families can no longer afford to keep their children…in school.” The ration is the key to education.

There is also the ongoing need to provide aid to displaced victims of the conflict in northern Yemen.

If these programs remain without funding, it will put extra pressure on millions of Yemenis. And how much longer can that continue before the country is about to break? If the U.S. and other governments want to see a stable Yemen, they need to realize now that hunger and malnutrition breed chaos.

Visit the World Food Programme Yemen page.

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.