GENEVA — The World Food Program (WFP) reports Yemen is facing a humanitarian crisis, with millions of people going hungry and widespread malnutrition threatening the health of millions of children.
According to the U.N. agency, nearly half of Yemen's 25 million people are going hungry. Among this group, 4.5 million are suffering severe food shortages and are in urgent need of international aid to survive.
One of the the world's poorest countries, Yemen continues to be buffeted by civil strife and political instability, creating a state of insecurity is hampering the country's economic and social development.
As in most crisis situations,WFP says children have been hardest hit, with two million under age five with stunted growth and one million acutely malnourished.
WFP spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs says the lack of food threatens children's health and well-being.
"When a child is malnourished, when he does not get the nutrition he needs and he cannot get proper food on a daily basis, they are more vulnerable and they can have more diseases, she said. "They are more fragile. This is a situation which is of concern. That is why food security and preventing them from falling into acute severe malnutrition is a major objective for WFP."
WFP is scaling up its supplementary feeding program to answer this need, focusing nutritional treatment programs on Yemen's five coastal governorates, where 50 percent of the country's malnourished children live.
The supplementary feeding program will provide special nutritious food for hundreds of thousands of young children, as well as for 157,000 pregnant and nursing women.
From July, WFP will begin a two-year $500 million Recovery Operation. The aim is to help people tackle long-term hunger by helping them overcome their food shortages and nutritional deficiencies. Under the plan, the U.N. food agency will help create rural employment and improve agriculture and water supply.
According to Byrs, another important element of the operation is a school feeding program to give 200,000 girls take-home rations.
"We target girls' because parents, [because they are] reluctant sometimes to send them to school," she said. "When they go to school, they get this take-home ration for themselves and also for members of the family. So it is an incentive measure to send the girls back to education."
Byrs says WFP also will provide a daily snack to 900,000 children. The plan will provide life-saving assistance to internally displaced people and support measures to prevent and treat malnutrition among children and mothers.