The Obama administration recently stated the urgency of “resolving the political crisis in Sanaa so that the Yemeni Government and people can successfully confront the serious challenges they face.”
The terrorist group Al Qaeda is clearly one of these major challenges. So too are hunger and malnutrition, which are fast on the attack throughout Yemen. The U.S. and its allies have to enact a food for peace plan now.
Hunger has only intensified in Yemen since the political unrest unfolded between President Saleh’s regime and those seeking his removal. Food prices have gone up, families are now being forced to skip meals as they struggle to afford anything. Malnutrition rates, already high, are likely to go even higher.
Fighting in Southern Yemen between the government and militants allegedly linked to Al Qaeda is adding to the country’s humanitarian crisis.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and other aid agencies are feeding those displaced by the conflict. WFP said this week: “While past clashes in Yemen have tended to lead to temporary displacement, it appears as if the current displacement in the south will be quite protracted.”
WFP has a plan to distribute rations to millions of hungry Yemenis, including the newly displaced. However, WFP remains about $60 million short on funding for its Yemen hunger relief mission.
In addition, UNICEF needs to have sufficient stocks of ready-to-eat foods like Plumpy’nut which can save the smallest children from lifetime damaging malnutrition. This has been an overlooked area of the utmost importance.
So what you have is hunger-fighting missions, which can do a lot to stabilize and give hope to Yemen, that are lacking in international donor support.
Food can revitalize nutrition levels. It can bring hope at a time when turmoil could drive the country into chaos. Food can stimulate the education system when used in school feeding. Food can also support work projects to rebuild the country. Food is a powerful tool for peace and progress.
In addition, food is about the most inexpensive foreign policy investment that can be made. A coalition of nations does not have to expend very much to deploy food for peace.
George Marshall’s famous European recovery program was set up by a less famous, but extremely important, interim aid food package. That is the kind of project Yemen needs right now as the country either can tip toward peace and political reconciliation, or can slide into chaos, poverty, Al Qaeda-domination and suffering.