Imagine you run a market in northern Yemen, a region which is trying to rebuild after years of conflict between the government and rebels.
You are basically trying to restore your livelihood. What do you want to see? You need customers.
But war takes its toll on communities, and poverty is the result. Many families have lost their livelihoods because of the conflict. They may have been displaced from their homes too.
High food prices are common in Yemen and it may be tough for people to make purchases at your market. They cannot access all of the foods they need for decent living. This can lead to malnutrition within their family. This means less productivity, less schooling. It’s the poverty trap at work. You can see the impact it has on the community, including less business for your market and less income for you.
Damage in Sa’ada City in Northern Yemen from the conflict between the government and rebels. Reconstruction and recovery of livelihoods is a major challenge facing Yemenis. Food can be the foundation of this recovery. (Aysha Twose, Save the Children)
Save the Children, though, is hoping to launch a plan to break this cycle in northern Yemen (Sa’ada province). The idea is to provide vouchers for struggling families so they can purchase food at local markets. It’s a safety net for these families; it gets food back on the shelves of their pantry and stimulates the local market.
The U.S. Food for Peace program is funding this initiative. One thousand, four hundred households, about 9,800 people, will take part in this project in northern Yemen.
Unfortunately, recent political unrest in Yemen has put the plan temporarily on hold. Aysha Twose of Save the Children says, “The political situation has been quite difficult, but we’re hoping that we’ll be back up and running soon.”
She adds, “We’ve used food vouchers in many contexts (e.g. in Haiti and Pakistan last year) as they are quite effective in helping families meet their needs and also supporting the local market. So hopefully we’ll get it going soon in Yemen too!”
The voucher program is scheduled to last eight months. Perhaps this concept can spread to more parts of Yemen. No matter what happens politically, this is a country that needs to fight hunger and poverty. They need food for peace in the worst way.
Beyond political unrest, Yemen’s road to peace means ending the hunger and poverty trap facing millions of its citizens. Here is a photo of Sa’ada City. (Aysha Twose, Save the Children)
High food prices continue to be a serious concern. Save the Children reports, “Our rapid assessment showed an average 15% increase in the price of staple foods – the highest increase was the price of vegetable oil which had gone up by 25%.”
Food safety nets for Yemenis will play a vital, stabilizing role as the country continues to sort out its political problems. Losing these safety nets will compound an already tense situation.