INTERNATIONAL. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is urgently appealing to partners for additional support to help the agency address critical levels of hunger and malnutrition in Yemen.
In 2009, WFP is working to improve the food security and nutritional status of more than 1.6 million vulnerable Yemenis at a cost of US$55 million. However, the agency’s ability to meet its commitments is being increasingly challenged by limited funding. WFP is currently facing a dramatic shortfall of US$23 million – about 42% of the total needs for this year alone.
“Volatile food and fuel prices combined with conflict and natural disasters over the past years have severely affected the country, leaving more than one in three Yemenis suffering from chronic hunger,” said WFP Representative in Yemen Gian Carlo Cirri.
“There is an urgent need for increased support so that WFP can continue to honour its commitments to Yemen’s most vulnerable people, especially at a time when the current global financial crisis is further compounding the situation.”
WFP currently does not have enough funding to continue implementing its Food for Education and Food for Health programmes in Yemen. Both are among the few safety nets for poor and rural families and target an annual average of 850,000 people.
Under the two schemes, poor families in rural areas receive food as an incentive for visiting health facilities regularly and for sending their daughters to school, all the while contributing to improve and maintain the food security and nutritional status of families.
WFP has seen a 60% jump in female enrolment in WFP-assisted schools; in some schools the number of girls has even surpassed that of boys. Moreover, the number of children and mothers attending health centres to receive nutritious food and to benefit from other life-saving health services, such as pre-natal care and vaccinations, continues to rise.
“We are appealing to the donor community to help us keep increasing enrollment rates of girls in school and continue to provide essential safety nets for rural families in Yemen,” said Yemen’s Minister of Education Dr Abdulsalam Al-Jawfi.
WFP will have to suspend both schemes until it receives much-needed funding. As a result, poor families will stop sending girls to school and the food security and nutrition status of vulnerable families, particularly children and mothers, will further deteriorate.
Life-saving operations will also be heavily hit by the funding shortfall.
Starting October 2009, WFP said it will not have the resources to continue assisting more than 815,000 of the most vulnerable people including families displaced by the conflict in Sa’ada in northern Yemen and those who lost their homes and livelihoods during last year’s floods in eastern Yemen; families pushed deeper into poverty as a result of high food prices; and refugees who have fled turmoil in Somalia.
These families depend on WFP food not only for survival, but to help them recover from tragedy and begin to rebuild their lives.