We hear news reports daily of increasing protests and deadly violence coming from Yemen. Protesters in Yemen are calling for the ouster of President Saleh. He refuses to leave and the calls for revolution only grow stronger.
Most of us are quite far removed from these events unfolding thousands of miles away. You might feel quite helpless too, and just simply absorbing tragic news. But there is something just about anyone can do to help Yemen.
Often buried in news coverage in Yemen is the greatest threat to their population: hunger and malnutrition. One in 3 people suffer from hunger in Yemen. This means they cannot access basic foods on a daily basis. Many others teeter on the edge of this hunger abyss.
Food can be a source of stability and hope during a tumultuous period in Yemen. The international community can provide this food for peace for a relatively small sum. It is needed more than ever by the Yemeni people.
Food assistance programs run by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF barely receive any funding. The World Food Programme is planning to run a massive safety net operation to reach about 1.8 million Yemenis with a food ration. High food prices place a major stress on families in Yemen who live off less than 2 dollars a day.
Currently, there is not enough funding for the WFP food mission to go forward. UNICEF and WFP also need funding to aid infant children who need proper nutrition in the first 1000 days of life. That is the struggle the smallest Yemenis are engaged in that will shape their lives. If they do not get the food, they will suffer lasting physical and mental damage.
Yemen is currently under a “state of emergency,” according to the government. No one knows what that means or where the protests will lead. Will it mean more conflict for a country that has experienced so much with the Sa’ada War in the North, unrest in the South and Al Qaeda?
One thing is certain. Hunger comes with chaos. There is the real danger of the current hunger crisis in Yemen growing even worse. When we think of Yemen going forward, we have to think of food for peace. It can start by ensuring WFP and UNICEF have the resources they need to carry out hunger relief missions in the country.
With such rampant poverty and malnutrition, how can we expect stability or peace to emerge in Yemen? How can they resist extremism?
It’s time to quit pretending there is no 800 pound gorilla in the room. It’s time to fight hunger in Yemen. That is the one way we can provide support for Yemen’s people to live in peace.The U.S. can lead the international community in making this happen.