YEMEN. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the government of Yemen is today signing a letter of understanding for the implementation of an emergency operation in response to high food prices. The operation will assist more than half a million of the poorest Yemenis with 30,000 metric tonnes of assorted food commodities at a cost of nearly US$24 million.
John M Powell, United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Deputy Executive Director, will be signing the agreement on behalf of WFP. Powell is visiting Yemen from 26-30 January and is meeting with high-ranked officials, donors, representatives from international organisations, and partners. During his visit, Powell will also travel to Aden, where WFP is providing food to 43,500 Somali refugees.
One of the highlights of the mission will be the signing of the agreement between WFP and the government of Yemen for the implementation of WFP’s emergency response to High Food Prices. The signing ceremony is being hosted by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation, HE Abdel-Karim Al-Arhabi, who will be signing on behalf of the government.
Yemen is one of the countries hardest hit by increased food prices and, according to the 2008 Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of Food Insecurity Report, one in three Yemenis now suffers from chronic hunger, this means some 7.7 million people.
In mid-2008 WFP conducted an assessment on the impact of high food prices on poor households in Yemen and found that as a result of the crisis, poor Yemeni families are forced to spend over 65 percent of their household budget on meeting daily food needs, usually at the expense of education and health expenditures. They are also eating less and lower quality food. Although in recent months food prices have decreased internationally, the local market has been slow to reflect this decline and food is still out of reach for the poorest Yemenis.
“Even though global food prices have moderated since 2008, Yemen has seen little relief and the impact of high food prices – now compounded by the financial crisis – is still unfolding. Our first priority is to continue meeting the most urgent humanitarian needs,” said Powell.
WFP’s planned response operation will include a general food distribution component providing 54,000 households (378,000 individuals) with 50 kg of wheat flour per month to assist families in meeting their food gap over six months.
In an effort to prevent malnutrition, WFP will provide food to all pregnant and lactating women and children under two years of age in the targeted districts, an estimated 190,000 beneficiaries. The one year nutrition intervention will also include support for 22,000 moderate acute malnourished children under five years of age in districts where over two-thirds of the population is living below the poverty line.
The Emergency Operation will be closely coordinated with the government of Yemen, under the overall cooperation of the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation. WFP has a long history of cooperation with the Ministry of Teaching and Education and Ministry of Public Health and Population through its Country Programme to promote girls’ access to education and reduce malnutrition among pregnant/lactating mothers and children. This close relationship will be expanded now under the High Food Price Operation, as WFP will work with both Ministries to implement to project. WFP will also coordinate with the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to ensure that those families benefiting from the general food distribution component are indeed the poorest and most vulnerable Yemenis.
The High Food Price Operation will aim to reduce acute malnutrition, improve food consumption of families, and improve the nutrition status of targeted women, girls and boys. The operation will contribute to Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, reducing child mortality, and improving maternal health.
“This project, in close coordination with the government, is a bold attempt to curb malnutrition in Yemen and mitigate the impact of the high food prices. Without such effective action, the food crisis will continue to challenge the country. Sustainable development is not possible while so many millions of lives are irrevocably diminished by severe hunger,” said Powell.
WFP has provided over US$440 million to Yemen since 1967. In addition to the High Food Price Emergency Operation, WFP is implementing a US$77 million five-year Country Programme to assist approximately 1.65 million Yemenis by promoting girls’ access to education and improving the health of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women and tuberculosis and leprosy patients.
The agency also provides humanitarian assistance to 100,000 persons affected by the Sa’ada conflict as well as food to 43,500 vulnerable Somali refugees fleeing conflict in their country. WFP is also providing assistance to 25,000 persons affected by floods in Hadramout and Al-Mahra governorates. In 2009, WFP’s portfolio will expand over US$55 million, compared to US$30 million last year.