Friday , March 1 2024
Support the basics in Yemen. Fund the relief programs by aid agencies.

Yemen: What Can Be Done to Help Now

The standoff between supporters of Yemen’s president Saleh and protesters seeking his removal has now erupted into street battles.

Voice of America is reporting that “Dozens of people have been killed in the fighting that followed Saleh’s rejection Sunday of a deal to step down.” The proposed peaceful transition deal was brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council of Arab States.

President Obama said Wednesday, “we call on President Saleh to move immediately on his commitment to transfer power.” The coming days will either lead to peace or will spiral into civil war. Besides reinforcing the call for peace, there is a way we can help Yemen.

This is by urging a more effective and responsible plan for aiding and developing the country. As Obama said in London today, “The Yemeni people call for greater opportunity and prosperity.”

None of this will take place without the basics of food, medicine, shelter, and education that are so severely lacking in the poorest country in the Middle East. First must come interim aid to fill gaps in these areas. Then you have to coordinate a longer-term plan so the country can become self-sufficient.

Yet the UN World Food Programme, UNICEF, and other aid agencies are constantly facing funding shortages. This leaves Yemen always digging out of a hole. There are piecemeal donations from donor governments, but nothing significant enough to set in motion lasting change.

Entire programs like Food for Education have been in shut-down mode for over a year now. Plans to help families cope with high food prices remain short on funding. What about the high infant malnutrition rate in Yemen and its deadly consequences?

Let’s hope with all our might that this political unrest gets resolved peacefully and soon. But let’s also do more than that.

Support the basics in Yemen. Fund the relief programs by aid agencies. Devise a plan that provides long-term solutions to the crushing poverty in the country. Ensure lasting peace in Northern Yemen which has seen years of conflict between the government and rebels.

Nadia A. Al-Sakkaf, editor of the Yemen Times, wrote me last month about the women’s conference. She said, “It was amazing how simple yet crucial our demands were and I felt sad that we [struggle] so much to simply get our basic rights such as education and health care.”

Keep your thoughts with the people in Yemen during this crisis. Geert Cappelaere, head of UNICEF Yemen, told me this morning, “just the thought that people are out there and very much with us makes…a difference.”

But also do some planning so a true peace emerges in Yemen from all of this. That will only come if the needs of the people are met. And it starts with the basic necessities.

About William Lambers

William Lambers is the author of several books including Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids Around the World. This book features over 50 interviews with officials from the UN World Food Programme and other charities discussing school feeding programs that fight child hunger. He is also the author of Nuclear Weapons, The Road to Peace: From the Disarming of the Great Lakes to the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Open Skies for Peace, The Spirit of the Marshall Plan: Taking Action Against World Hunger, School Lunches for Kids Around the World, The Roadmap to End Global Hunger, From War to Peace and the Battle of Britain. He is also a writer for the History News Service. His articles have been published by newspapers including the Cincinnati Enquirer, Des Moines Register, the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Buffalo News, San Diego Union Tribune, the Providence Journal, Free Lance-Star (VA), the Bakersfield Californian, the Washington Post, Miami Herald (FL), Chicago Sun-Times, the Patriot Ledger (MA), Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail (WV), the Cincinnati Post, Salt Lake Tribune (UT), North Adams Transcript (MA), Wichita Eagle (KS), Monterey Herald (CA), Athens Banner-Herald (GA) and the Duluth News Journal. His articles also appear on History News Network (HNN) and Think Africa Press. Mr. Lambers is a graduate of the College of Mount St. Joseph in Ohio with degrees in Liberal Arts (BA) and Organizational Leadership (MS). He is also a member of the Feeding America Blogger Council.

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