Senators Jack Reed (RI), Carl Levin (MI), and Jon Tester (MT) are traveling this week to Afghanistan, Yemen, and Iraq. A press release stated the senators will gain a “firsthand look at security and political developments in the region and their impact on America’s national security.”
The senators also need to focus on the hunger and malnutrition crisis facing these countries, and the fact that the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is facing huge funding shortages for its Yemen and Afghanistan missions. These are two countries with alarmingly high rates of child malnutrition, and where food is desperately needed. In Iraq, WFP is also facing a funding shortage for school feeding and mother/child health initiatives.
The funding shortfalls are an extremely troubling development. Food is the foundation for peace and development. Tragically, the fight against hunger has not been sufficiently factored in to the strategy for the three countries the senators are visiting. This needs to change quickly.
In Yemen, WFP has not even received $10 million out of $77 million required for a food emergency operation. Other programs WFP hoped to run, like Food for Education, remain suspended. Yet these are the programs that can make a difference in a country. Why are they not being funded?
In Afghanistan, without new funding, WFP will run out of life-saving foods for infant children, like plumpy’nut. Ironically, plumpy’nut is produced in Senator Reed’s home state at the Providence-based Edesia. Yemen also faces a huge plumpy’nut shortage.
It is imperative that the senators, on their trip, pay attention to what matters to the people of Yemen, Afghanistan, and Iraq. For millions in these countries, it is access to basic foods and nutrition for their children. Their daily struggle is against hunger and malnutrition and it’s a fight we can help them win. That is food for peace.