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This hunger crisis in Yemen will have a particularly devastating effect on children.

Stopping the Hunger and Despair in Yemen

Yemen, a country which borders Saudi Arabia, has been in the news lately for the deadly Al Qaeda presence within its borders. Far less coverage has been given to the greater struggle in that impoverished country against hunger and malnutrition.

This past weekend Maria Santamarina of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) informed me that demonstrations are taking place in Yemen over food shortages. WFP, facing low funding, had to cut rations in half for over 250,000 people who have been displaced by a conflict in the North between the government and rebels. These Yemenis are completely dependent on food aid.

It gets worse. More WFP food programs in Yemen have been facing ration cuts and in some cases complete suspension—all this in one of the poorest countries in the world where 1 in 3 suffer from chronic hunger. 

In a country facing such hunger and despair, how do we expect to see stability, especially in the face of the Al Qaeda threat?

This hunger crisis in Yemen will have a particularly devastating effect on children. Jennifer Mizgata of WFP says that child feeding in Yemen “must be addressed immediately before an entire generation is lost.”

Small children who lack nutrition in their first years can become severely impaired physically and mentally for their entire lives. The child feeding by WFP is of the utmost urgency.

WFP is not alone with funding shortages. Geert Cappelaere of UNICEF-Yemen says that their child feeding programs are facing funding shortfalls of over 3 million dollars. Save the Children is also in need of support for its programs in Yemen.

There is potential help out there. I was recently contacted by a non-profit organization in Providence, Rhode Island called Edesia which produces ready-to-use foods (RTU) like Plumpy’nut, which are desperately needed by children in Yemen.

Edesia not only can provide supplies of this food for Yemen, but can also help implement local production to help the economy there. In fact, UNICEF and WFP have mentioned the importance of this local production goal as part of a solution to hunger in Yemen.

But what prevents this food from getting to Yemen right now is lack of funding and lack of will from the international community. 

The capability exists to take action and save children in Yemen. From a humanitarian and national security perspective, it is the right course of action. Our national security strategy has to emphasize child feeding in a more vigorous way, and it needs to start in Yemen.

There once was a time when U.S. foreign policy was summed up in the words of the great general and diplomat, George Marshall, who said that we are against “hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” And we acted on those words with a great European recovery program after World War II, of which child feeding was a vital part. 

Where is such leadership and spirit now, as we face the great hunger tragedy in Yemen and other countries, and particularly its impact on the future: the children?

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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