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Underfed and underfunded: Yemen food crisis persists

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 15 Jul 2014 17:37 GMT
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People wait for food rations from volunteers during the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a mosque in Sanaa July 6, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Ten million Yemenis, over 40% of the population, do not know where their next meal will come from, and half that number are even more short of food, according to a new survey by two United Nations agencies.

The survey also found that 12 of Yemen’s 22 governorates had critical levels of “stunting”, children who fail to grow properly due to severe malnutrition.

“Of the estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five, more than two in five are stunted while almost 13 percent are acutely malnourished,” Jeremy Hopkins, Acting UNICEF Representative in Yemen, said in a statement.

U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Greg Barrow said Yemen’s  long-running food crisis had many causes: civil conflict and resulting displacement, endemic poverty, political instability, a refugee influx from the Horn of Africa, and high food prices. Yemen imports 90% of its food.

“One issue it is important to point out about Yemen is that there is a great shortage of funds,” Barrow told Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday. “We are at a time when there are many international humanitarian crises competing for attention and funds, which often has a knock-on effect.”

So far, 34.2 percent of the $592 million required for humanitarian assistance in Yemen in 2014 has been received, according to the Financial Tracking Service, which tracks global humanitarian aid. The WFP has just 22% of what it needs to fund its projects in Yemen.

The survey was organised by the WFP and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), supported by Yemen’s Central Statistical Office. Households were interviewed, and measurements of women and children taken, in every governorate.

Half the 10 million food-insecure Yemenis suffer from “severe” food insecurity, preliminary findings of the research showed. This means food aid from abroad is generally required and there is a “critical” prevalence of chronic malnutrition among under-fives.

Overall levels of food insecurity had declined slightly, from 45% to 41%, since data were last gathered in 2011. But the pattern of change was uneven, with the proportion increasing from 38% to 57% in the central governorate of Shabwa , and rural areas were the worst affected.

Malnutrition rates varied widely and were worst in the western coastal governorates.

Unrest in Yemen in recent years has had severe humanitarian consequences, displacing people, creating severe fuel shortages and dramatically pushing up the price of food.

Bishow Parajuli, WFP country spokesman for Yemen, said in a statement: “For the political process to succeed, people need to be able to live normal lives and not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”

(Editing by Tim Pearce; timothy.pearce@thomsonreuters.com)

 

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