President Obama and Secretary Clinton have both stated how a strong, stable Yemen is a vital national security priority. The Senate, citing Al Qaida's presence, has emphasized the same through a resolution. But where is the food?
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) just announced that rations would be cut in half for over 250,000 Yemenis displaced by a conflict between the government and rebels. Other food aid programs have been suspended since last year. Why? Because of low funding for WFP—all this in a country where 1 in 3 suffer from chronic hunger.
WFP is doing the best they can with limited stocks, but unless new funding is found, food programs will completely collapse at the end of this summer. As it is now, Yemenis will be living off reduced rations, which will pose serious malnutrition risks for many, including children.
You cannot build a foundation for peace and stability in a country with such suffering. As President Harry Truman said in 1946, "A sound world order can never be built upon a foundation of human misery."
In Truman's time, food was a critical element of U.S. foreign policy as it tried to restore a world economy and resist the spread of Communism. Fighting hunger is no less important today as the U.S. tries to build stability in Yemen and elsewhere in order to resist terrorism and extremism.
A coalition of nations led by the U.S. could deal with the food crisis at hand in Yemen. They must act quickly as hunger and malnutrition among so many will only harm the peace process.
U.S. Counterterrorism Coordinator Daniel Benjamin says, “As the government of Yemen grows more transparent and responsive to the requirements of its citizens, the seeds of extremism and violence will find less fertile ground…”
The first and most basic requirements of the people of Yemen are food, water and shelter. They need to escape the poverty trap before the possibility of a peaceful, stable, and non-violent Yemen can emerge.
One of the most significant areas being ignored right now is child feeding. How can school feeding and nutrition programs for infants be underfunded in any country, let alone one being labeled a national security priority?
Back in 1946 President Truman said in a radio address to the nation about global hunger, “we cannot ignore the cry of hungry children.” Yet, that is where we find ourselves today. A child struggling to find enough food is the definition of a failed foreign policy.
Still, around $78 million from the U.S. and its allies could restore the World Food Programme funding in Yemen for this year. In addition to meeting emergency needs, a comprehensive food strategy could be unleashed that would hit at the root causes of the hunger and poverty ravaging that country.
This would include restarting and strengthening the Food for Education program for children that has been suspended since last June. Initiatives like school feeding are powerful tools in the fight against hunger and poverty.
Without funding from the international community, none of these initiatives will get off the ground. Peace and stability in Yemen will remain elusive, to everyone's detriment, especially our own.