Millions are facing food crisis in Yemen unless more food aid can be found by summer, aid organisations warn. The World Food Programme (WFP) said it has only had a quarter of its yearly budget for food aid and warns it will run out of food for 3.2 million people by the end of June. The 250,000 homeless people in the north and 19,000 refugees in the south, mostly Somali are at greatest risk, according to aid organisations. “If WFP stopped its distribution of food, it would be a catastrophic scenario,” said Kamel Ben Abdallah, head of Young Child Survival and Development for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen. “Without regular food distribution, the situation would definitely deteriorate and they would starve.”
Other aid groups fear that a halt to food handouts in refugee camps in the north would push families to go back to their homelands in Saada Governorate, where there are not yet any basics, such as food, health and education.Some organisations have said they cannot scale up their aid supplies to compensate.
Andrew Moore, country director for Save the Children, said his organization could not take over WFP’s food distribution role. “We do not have enough funds; our US-funded health and nutrition programme is complementary to WFP,” he said.
In February, the WFP was forced to cut its rations to 72 per cent of the guideline daily calories for the homeless, because of a lack of funding. Besides its homeless and refugees, one third of Yemen’s 23 million people are “food insecure”, and of these, 2.7 million are ”severely food insecure”, according to a recent WFP report. Where there is “severe food insecurity”, households spend up to 30 per cent of their money just on bread. They have virtually no balanced diet and often have to skip meals.
Yemen is one of the worst places in the world for malnutrition. Nearly half (46 per cent) of all Yemeni children under five are underweight, the fourth highest rate in the world, according to the UN Development Programme’s Human Development Report 2009. And 58 per cent of children are malnourished, or are stunted, according to UNICEF’s report Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition 2009.“Without WFP, we will see more cases of severe malnutrition,” said Ben Abdallah of UNICEF. “This means UNICEF’s burden will increase and we are already unable to cover all the severe cases in Yemen.”
By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children