Budget decisions made by the U.S. Congress in the coming weeks will have their effect on Yemen. Proposals for reducing international food aid would limit the U.S.’s ability to respond to the humanitarian crisis escalating in Yemen, already the poorest country in the Middle East.
Congress has proposed reducing funding for the U.S. Food for Peace plan, which in 2011 supported the UN World Food Programme’s (WFP) relief operation in Sana’a City and northern Yemen. In addition, Food for Peace funded Save the Children’s voucher initiative, also in the north. This program showed promising results and if enough funding were available it could be continued and expanded.
Currently, the UN World Food Programme and UNICEF are facing funding shortages for their relief programs in Yemen. The prospect of the U.S. decreasing its food aid budget is a forerunner of disaster for an already distressed humanitarian operation.
Before this year’s political unrest and violence unfolded, Yemen was already suffering a humanitarian crisis, with high rates of child malnutrition. The year’s events have made this situation worse, with prices of food and other basic goods on the increase. Food is becoming out of reach.
UNICEF recently reported that “food security & nutrition indicators continue to be alarmingly low. Protein intake continues to decline, with increasing numbers of households reporting no consumption of meat (74.2%), fish (65.0%), chicken (34.2%), and eggs (43.3%).”
UNICEF, which surveys households in the Sana’a, Amran, and Hodeida governorates, highlights the alarming child malnutrition crisis and says, “More households reported decreased number of meals among children < 5 yrs (33.6%) compared with the previous round (22.6%), with children in rural households being the most vulnerable to meal reduction (40.4%) compared with urban households (28.6%).”
The World Food Program USA is rallying support for increasing U.S. international food aid so there can be a stronger response to the crisis in Yemen and other countries.
WFP USA states, “Despite the fact that cuts to these critically important international programs cannot possibly make a meaningful contribution to reducing the debt or balancing the budget, unfortunately they are under threat this week as the Senate debates International Affairs accounts.”
A take action page has been set up to help citizens contact their representatives in Congress to oppose the budget cuts to international food aid.