News / Middle East

Yemen Battles Hunger While Struggling with Multiple Crises

A woman holds her malnourished child at a feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, June 20, 2012.A woman holds her malnourished child at a feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, June 20, 2012.
A woman holds her malnourished child at a feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, June 20, 2012.
A woman holds her malnourished child at a feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, June 20, 2012.
Patrick deHahn
Tucked away in the corner of the Arabian Peninsula and somewhat obscured by surrounding Persian Gulf countries, Yemen is struggling with multiple crises: If an ongoing uprising and endless clashes between Yemen’s security forces and al-Qaida militants weren’t enough of a challenge for the impoverished nation, nearly half of Yemen’s people are going hungry, with many facing the danger of starvation.

The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that nearly 10 million Yemenis are “food insecure.” They fall into two categories - five million are classified as “severely food insecure,” that is, those who are unable to buy or grow food themselves, and another five million who are “moderately food insecure,” that is, they are at risk of going without food due to rising food prices and the ongoing civil conflict. Combined, they account for 44.5 percent of Yemen’s population of close to 25 million.

Children are particularly vulnerable. The WFP reports that half of Yemen's children are chronically malnourished and that one out of ten does not live to reach the age of five.
The picture is one of a country on the brink of a disastrous and rapid decline into humanitarian crisis.

Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition, according to the WFP, are second globally only to Afghanistan. In its assessment of the situation, the organization characterizes “the picture [as] one of a country on the brink of a disastrous and rapid decline into humanitarian crisis.”

Compounding the problem is a lack of sufficient water and sanitation. Geert Cappelaere, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) country representative for Yemen, says that half the Yemeni population doesn’t have access to clean water supplies or adequate sanitation.

“The situation is worsening,” Cappelaere told VOA, “a third of Yemen’s water supplies are not working, as a result of long-term depletion of water resources, drought, poor electricity supplies and disruption of water points, stemming from the continued conflict and lack of maintenance.”

Cappeleare pointed out that UNICEF has set up feeding centers and is working to improve water sources.  It has also trained community volunteers to work with Yemen’s hungry. The United Nations World Food Program has committed $207 million for food projects in the country, but Cappelaere said this was not enough and that more international aid is severely needed.

A man carries food aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sanaa July 2, 2012.A man carries food aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sanaa July 2, 2012.
A man carries food aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sanaa July 2, 2012.
A man carries food aid provided by the Red Crescent Society in Sanaa July 2, 2012.
Getting aid to the hungry

Care International, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, Merlin, Oxfam and Save the Children have joined together to form a coalition to combat Yemen’s massive hunger problem through a coordinated aid effort for the country.
Jerry Farrell, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen, told VOA that there is a difference between a food crisis and hunger.

“This is not a food crisis. There is plenty of food in the markets, with the exception of Abyan, the scene of recent fighting,” Farrell said. The problem is that people either lack the money to buy food or are unable to travel to markets.

In order to avoid undermining local markets, Save the Children and other organizations in the coalition are distributing food vouchers or cash to needy families.

Farrell said aid organizations face tremendous challenges in Yemen. First, donor funding doesn’t come close to matching Yemen’s needs and the monies that are available don’t reach the country fast enough. “Donor funding is too slow,” he said. “What should take weeks takes months in terms of the approval and funding process.” In some areas, he added, access is limited or cut off altogether. 

Farrell believes that the key to these challenges lies in communication: “There is very limited, accurate information about the needs in Yemen,” he said. “The NGOs wind up conducting their own assessments. This costs time and money, funds that would be better used in developing and implementing humanitarian programs.”

International donors

Aid groups have persuaded individual countries to join in the effort.  The United Arab Emirates has donated $5 million. Saudi Arabia has promised $3.25 billion to help Yemen improve infrastructure and security, which will help the hungry reach marketplaces.  The European Union has contributed $32 million to Yemeni aid efforts, while India has recently offered to donate food assistance consisting of packages of rice.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently increased its humanitarian assistance to Yemen. In early June, it allocated an additional $6.5 million, bringing the humanitarian assistance total by the U.S. to $80 million in 2012.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ali from: dc
August 01, 2012 10:36 PM
Yemenis love qat, a leafy plant,chewed for recreation.They waste their time,land and water in this addiction.

by: david lulasa from: tambua,gimarakwa,hamisi,v
July 31, 2012 5:13 AM
if 2012 ramadhan rituals are not going to be dedicated to syrians and yemenis,then the fast in neighbouring muslim countries will be another sham.

by: alfredo
July 30, 2012 12:02 PM
susan is right-it has alot to do with islam,a failed political and religious order that rules and forces people to deal with situations as they did a thousand years ago.they are forced not to evolve and as such suffer as much of the human race did-A LONG TIME AGO.i know that if i did not have enough food for myself or my present family,i would not produce more children-unless someone else felt obligated to feed them,absolving me of my responsibility,then i could have more babies,and if they starve,hey it's not my fault the rest of the world won't feed them!

by: Lady H from: USA
July 30, 2012 8:21 AM
A WORK IN PROGRESS brought to you by the MASTERS of Corporate Globalization. So far, well played.

by: nashwan hasan almofrsik from: sana'a yemen
July 30, 2012 6:59 AM
Thanks for all those who help yemen to get out of this crisis , the yemeni people want to live like the other nations >
I hope that yemenies not to depend on these assistance always and make his food by them self and the international community must help yemen in this field .
thanks once again for them .
In Response

by: Mort from: Jiangxi,China
August 09, 2012 7:17 PM
I'm so sorry to hear that your country is suffering a hunger crisis.
I am deeply touched.I'm ashamed of wasting food.
I want to help them, poor children.
But I do not have any access.
God bless children,and God bless Yemen.
In Response

by: Nanush
July 30, 2012 10:01 AM
Whatever water there is, is wasted on growing ghat, a semi narcotic leaf that all the Yemini men chew on. Give them more water - they will just grow more ghat. The same as in Somalia.

Give them more cash? They will just buy another 11 year old bride/servant. Nothing will change, until Yemen stops using it's collective penis as its organ of thought, and starts using its brain

by: Susan from: UK
July 29, 2012 1:34 PM
Massacre... Starvation... Degradation... Islam...
In Response

by: cloudyaojing from: china
July 30, 2012 4:07 AM
well, you cannot say that it is because of islam. that is simply despise.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs