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.
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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.
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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.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
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.

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