The UN World Food Programme (WFP) announced its emergency safety net plan to fight hunger in Yemen. It’s a three-pronged approach. WFP will provide rations for impoverished families, food for children under five and pregnant women, and help jumpstart the rehabilitation of agricultural and public assets.
The plan is sound but there is one huge problem. There are few donations from the international community to carry out the mission. Under $10 million out of the required $77 million has been received.
WFP says it’s “requesting immediate additional contributions be made to this operation that will assist 682,000 children, 88,000 pregnant and lactating women, and over 1.8 million food-insecure Yemenis.”
Last summer, the White House admitted that the humanitarian relief plan for Yemen was “woefully underfunded.” The budget shortfall meant reduced rations for displaced persons from the conflict in Northern Yemen between the government and rebels. The low funding also meant suspension of a Food for Education program for around 115,000 school children. To date, this school feeding initiative has not received the funding to start up again.
Yemen is a country where one in three people are suffering from hunger, and more on the brink. WFP Yemen director Gian Carlo Cirri points out that the emergency food plan takes on even more significance during a time of high food prices.
Yemen has an extremely high rate of child malnutrition, making the nutritional support for infants and pregnant women especially crucial. Special foods like plumpy’nut and supplementary plumpy need to be in full supply in Yemen. Lack of nutrition for small children can lead to severe mental and physical damage. Plumpy’nut can rescue many children in Yemen right now.
The United States and its international partners need to think more about food first when planning their strategy for helping Yemen. For nothing is more basic to any population than food security. And it is through food that so many other objectives related to peace and economic development can spring.