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U.S. and Allies Ignoring Child Hunger Crisis in Yemen

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Recently, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia agreed to a $60 billion arms package.  Imagine for a moment if that amount of money, or even a fraction of it, could go toward fighting child hunger.

Take Yemen, a country with extremely high rates of child malnutrition, with wasting at 12.5 percent for children under five.  This is where the lack of nourishment becomes so severe for children that they lose massive amounts of weight and become very susceptible to illness.  If help does not come, the child can suffer lasting physical and mental damage, or much worse.

In short, many infants in Yemen are receiving dangerously low levels of nourishment.  About half of the children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition, a steady denial of nutrition.

UNICEF and the World Food Programme are short of funding to supply plumpy’nut and other food for infants in Yemen (World Food Programme photo)

UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) lead the way in helping Yemen attack this child malnutrition crisis.  What’s missing, though, is support for these organizations.  Lack of funding brings the child feeding to a halt.

UNICEF and WFP need the special foods plumpy’nut and supplementary plumpy to help the children in Yemen.

Dr. Wisam Al-timimi of UNICEF says his organization requires US $8,400,000 to treat the most severe cases of child malnutrition using plumpy’nut.  Another $22 million is needed to handle moderate cases and bring those children back to health.

UNICEF generally handles the most severe of the infant malnutrition cases.  WFP works to keep vulnerable children from tipping over the edge into the more desperate stages of malnutrition.

WFP’s Georgia Warner reports that $23,862,681 will be needed to run a program for “270,000 children (6-59 months) to receive supplementary plumpy and 412,000 children (6-24 months) to receive plumpy’doz.”

Now that you’ve seen some numbers, what is next? There is a network of plumpy suppliers, including one nearby in Ethiopia, to provide this life-changing food. The only thing stopping it right now is funding.

Here is where U.S. leadership can step in. The President should immediately appoint a food ambassador to work on the necessary details for securing the food supply for Yemen. The food ambassador can coordinate the U.S. response and build the international cooperation that is needed to do a job that cannot be done alone.

There are close to a billion people suffering from hunger worldwide. There is the hunger crisis in Yemen and its threat to a whole generation of children. There are the funding shortages for Pakistan and Afghanistan operations. There is also shortage of funding for the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sudan. The list of hunger crisis points goes on.

For national security reasons, it is urgent that hunger in Yemen and around the world be tackled.  Food forms the basis of many foreign policy objectives.  How do you expect countries to thrive and have stability if great segments of their population suffer physical and mental damage from malnutrition?  If children are hungry, how do they go to school and learn?  How do people work without food?  A nation cannot progress without food security.

Relatively speaking, it would not cost a great deal for the U.S. and international partners to take on the hunger crisis in Yemen.  An interim aid approach coupled with long-term solutions would be a small investment with big returns.  It would mean a new generation of hope for children in Yemen.

For more information visit the World Food Programme.

For more on the crisis in Yemen see Al Qaeda, War, Hunger, and Poverty.

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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.