Yemen has received a lot of news coverage recently concerning terrorism. Not as much attention is being given to the hunger and poverty that afflict that country.
One of the interviews in my book Ending World Hunger was with Salman Omer from the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Yemen. The interview was focused on the status of school feeding. In an impoverished nation like Yemen, programs aimed at fighting child hunger are crucial.
Omer explained that WFP had a program in place that gave students take-home rations. He said, "A key goal of WFP's five-year country program is to support more than 114,639 schoolgirls enrolled in some 1,300 schools, in the most food-insecure areas of the country." This was important for it boosted school attendance and provided a supply of food for the entire family.
But at the time of the interview the high food prices of 2008 were affecting the program, cutting rations for many of the children in Yemen. This would not be the last hit the program would take.
In 2009, low funding for the World Food Programme forced the suspension of the take-home ration initiative entirely. So since June 2009, none of the students and their families in Yemen have been receiving the take-home rations.
Photo of school feeding participant in Yemen before lack of funding forced suspension of the program. Photo courtesy WFP/Mahdi Kalil)
According to Maria Santamarina of the World Food Programme, "We are hoping to conduct a distribution now in February 2010, though both the beneficiaries and basket will be reduced for lack of funding."
Clearly, the international community has to step forward to help restart school feeding in Yemen. Not only does the take-home ration need to be restored, there is still the job of building a national school lunch program that provides a daily meal in school for all students. WFP, the government of Yemen, and the international community need to work together to ensure this happens.
If there is to be serious strategy for peace and development in Yemen it has to involve fighting hunger. There is no road to peace and stability in a country through hunger, want, and lack of education.
See also this 2008 interview with Salman Omer about school feeding in Yemen, conducted before the program was suspended due to lack of funding.