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WFP Director Warns of Hunger Threat Stalking Yemen

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Josette Sheeran, the UN World Food Programme director, warns of a humanitarian disaster unfolding in Yemen. Sheeran said last week, “Rising food prices and political instability have left millions of people in Yemen hungry and vulnerable. Malnutrition is stalking the lives of women and children.”

WFP says that even before this year’s political unrest, “more than 50 percent of Yemeni children were chronically malnourished and more than 13 percent were acutely malnourished.”

During her keynote address at the 25th anniversary of the World Food Prize on October 13, WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran said, “Most of the world is not placed to handle the volatility in food prices and supplies. 80 percent of people have no food safety net.” Sheeran issued a warning last week about the effect of high food prices and malnutrition in Yemen. (WFP/Rene McGuffin)

This year’s chaos in Yemen has made it much harder for these children to gain access to needed foods. Lack of nutrition for children stunts physical and mental growth.

Lubna Alaman, WFP’s Representative in Yemen, says, “The challenges to reach and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable are huge, especially in the midst of a very volatile security situation.”

WFP is feeding displaced persons in Southern Yemen and also in the North, where years of conflict have left nearly half a million people struggling in hunger and poverty.

WFP is bringing food assistance to around 90,000 people from southern Yemen who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Abyan governorate. Most of the families are now living in school buildings or with host families in the city of Aden. (World Food Programme Video)

Nationwide, WFP is running a safety net operation to reach nearly 1.8 million Yemenis impacted by high food prices. However, low funding has severely limited the reach of this mission. WFP relies on voluntary funding from the international community.

Sheeran says that “WFP food assistance provides vital nutrition and stability at a time of great need.” If the program becomes fully funded, more Yemenis can be reached.

While Yemen is immersed in hunger and instability, the U.S. Congress is proposing reducing international food aid programs as part of budget cuts. The savings will be minimal and the consequences disastrous. Food aid programs currently make up less than one tenth of one percent of the federal budget.

Hunger and malnutrition are silent, but are so powerful that they can devastate a population within weeks if left unchecked; or they can slowly weaken the people through prolonged malnutrition. Yemen is caught in this trap.

The international community has to act now to put in place the safety nets which can save Yemen from hunger and malnutrition. There cannot be true change in Yemen as long as malnutrition has free reign.

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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.
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