According to Pennsylvania Senator Robert Casey, “we must be prepared to address a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis” in Yemen. Chairing a Senate hearing last week Casey emphasized, “The U.S. needs to send a message of clear solidarity with the Yemeni people, that we are concerned for their well-being and the prospects for their future.”
Meanwhile, humanitarian resources remain severely lacking within Yemen, with children particularly vulnerable. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), as well as UNICEF, lack adequate funding to carry out hunger relief missions which would help stabilize the country.
An already impoverished population is losing access to food. Prices of basic items have gone through the ceiling. The World Food Programme said last week, ”the price of bread is still 50% above what it had been only a few months ago.” Yemenis were already spending 30-35 percent of their daily income on bread.
According to recent WFP surveys, some Yemeni families have begun reducing meal sizes or even skipping them entirely. Step by step Yemenis are moving deeper into malnutrition. The progression is quiet, but devastating for Yemen’s future and well-being.
In addition to the countrywide poverty and food insecurity, there are increasing numbers of displaced persons in Southern Yemen. Fighting there between the government and suspected Al Qaeda militants has displaced about 80,000 people.
The World Food Programme has now increased its feeding program to reach 50,000 displaced persons residing in the southern port city of Aden. The International Committee of the Red Cross is also feeding displaced persons in Southern Yemen.
Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Yemen director, said today, “The recent unrest in Yemen has pushed thousands of people into the countryside. Many are being generously hosted by other families that have already been under stress and whose resources are diminishing. Our assistance will help not only those who have been displaced by the conflict; it will also relieve host families of their huge responsibility.”
WFP is expanding its emergency food plan to reach more than two million Yemenis. This operation will include the displaced persons in Aden as well as food-insecure families throughout Yemen. The most vulnerable of Yemen’s population, small children and pregnant women, will be provided critical nutritional support.
This food rescue plan, though, has lacked funding, and past distributions have failed to reach all the needy. WFP depends on voluntary donations, but the international community has not come through with nearly enough. In a press release today, WFP says it has ”launched a donor appeal of US $48.1 million, which is currently less than 30% funded.”
Other WFP food aid missions in Yemen, including for displaced persons in the North and Food for Education, also remain short on donor support.
Cirri warns, “With the ongoing crisis, we expect the need to increase.”