Hunger Relief Mission Resumes in Yemen, but Still “Woefully Underfunded”

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) says it’s resuming the hunger relief mission in the Sa’ada governorate of Northern Yemen. Along with its partner Islamic Relief, WFP is bringing food aid to people who have been victimized by the years of conflict between the government and Al-Houthi rebels. Recent unrest in Sa’ada had temporarily suspended WFP activities to bring food to the hungry.

The Sa’ada region is desperately in need of food aid, medical supplies, reconstruction and a lasting peace. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by the years of fighting, leading to lost livelihoods and increased risk of hunger and malnutrition.

Funding is also another crisis point. The WFP relief mission is short 28 million dollars to complete its 2011 program in Sa’ada. In addition, other WFP hunger fighting programs in the country face major funding shortages. This includes assistance to vulnerable populations which are plagued by the high food prices in the country.

Millions of Yemenis, amid political unrest, struggling to get food is a recipe for ultimate chaos. Defeating hunger in Yemen has tragically not been made a priority by the international community. The White House, in a statement last summer, said humanitarian relief in Yemen was “woefully underfunded.” This dangerous trend has continued well into 2011.

For now, WFP is getting food distributions going again in Sa’ada with the hope of expanding the operation.

Gian Carlo Cirri, WFP Yemen director, says, “This is a real breakthrough for humanitarian operations in Sa’ada governorate. Most of the new caseload that we are reaching out to now have been cut off from aid since the very beginning of the conflict in 2004. Our plan is to further increase our support to other districts and to reach, in the short term, a total number of 416,000 beneficiaries. We hope that it will stabilize a dire humanitarian situation.”

We want a stable Yemen, one that is responsive to the needs of its people. A more peaceful and prosperous Yemen is far less suitable to Al Qaeda.

If you are seeking to make Yemen peaceful and promote its development, how can this be achieved if the country is crushed by hunger and malnutrition? Yemen needs its own roadmap to end hunger and it would follow two tracks– 1) interim aid to fill in existing shortages, and 2) longer-term relief which would encourage more self-sufficiency including improvements to agriculture, infrastructure. etc.

Yemen has an alarmingly high rate of child malnutrition and hunger among the general population. The unrest now taking place in Yemen will not be alleviated among a hungry and suffering population. Until policymakers come to grips with this, there is no chance of securing a peaceful and stable Yemen.

Read more about hunger and malnutrition in Yemen at the Yemen Times and New York Times.

Article first published as Underfunded Hunger Relief Mission Resumes in Yemen, but Thousands Displaced on Blogcritics.