The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it’s resuming the hunger relief mission in the Sa’ada governorate of Northern Yemen. Along with its partner, Islamic Relief, WFP is bringing food aid to people who have been victimized by the years of conflict between the government and Al-Houthi rebels. Recent unrest in Sa’ada had temporarily suspended WFP activities to bring food to the hungry.
The Sa’ada region is desperately in need of food aid, medical supplies, reconstruction, and a lasting peace. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the years of fighting, leading to lost livelihoods and increased risk of hunger and malnutrition.
Photo from last year showing destruction is Sa’ada City resulting from the conflict between the Yemeni government and rebels (Aysha Twose/Save the Children)
Funding is also another crisis point. The WFP relief mission is short $28 million to complete its 2011 program in Sa’ada. Other WFP hunger-fighting programs in the country also face major funding shortages. This includes assistance to vulnerable populations which are plagued by the country’s high food prices.
Millions of Yemenis struggling to get food amid political unrest – it’s a recipe for ultimate chaos. Defeating hunger in Yemen has tragically not been made a priority by the international community. The White House, in a statement last summer, said humanitarian relief in Yemen was “woefully underfunded.” This dangerous trend has continued well into 2011.
For now, WFP is getting food distributions going again in Sa’ada with the hope of expanding the operation.
Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Yemen director, says, “This is a real breakthrough for humanitarian operations in Sa’ada governorate. Most of the new caseload that we are reaching out to now have been cut off from aid since the very beginning of the conflict in 2004. Our plan is to further increase our support to other districts and to reach, in the short term, a total number of 416,000 beneficiaries. We hope that it will stabilize a dire humanitarian situation.”
In addition, UNICEF needs funding so it can reach more children with aid such as life-saving plumpynut. Save the Children is running a food voucher program for families in Sa’ada, an initiative funded by U.S. Food for Peace. This program should be looked at for additional funding and possible expansion.
We want a stable Yemen, one that is responsive to the needs of its people. A more peaceful and prosperous Yemen is far less suitable to Al Qaeda.
If you are seeking to make Yemen peaceful and promote its development, how can this be achieved if the country is crushed by hunger and malnutrition? Yemen needs its own roadmap to end hunger and it would follow two tracks: 1) interim aid to fill in existing shortages, and 2) longer-term relief which would encourage more self-sufficiency, including improvements to agriculture, infrastructure, etc.
Yemen has an alarmingly high rate of child malnutrition and hunger among the general population. The unrest now taking place there will not be alleviated among a hungry and suffering population. Until policymakers come to grips with this, there is no chance of securing a peaceful and stable Yemen.
Update: IRIN news is reporting the displacement of thousands of civilians in the city of Zinjibar which is the capital of the Abyan province in Southern Yemen. The displacement follows attacks by the Yemeni army on Islamic militants who took over the city earlier this week. The BBC reports that it’s not yet been determined if the militants are associated with Al-Qaeda.
Those displaced are appealing to international aid organizations for help. With violence and unrest continuing in Yemen humanitarian needs are growing daily.