According to the United Nations World Food Programme’s (WFP) new Comprehensive Food Security Survey released this week, more than 40 percent of the Yemeni population struggles to attain adequate food.
Working with the U.N. Children’s Fund, the WFP found alarming levels of Global Acute Malnutrition across the country. The Survey also determined that chronic malnutrition among children younger than the age of five soared beyond the international benchmark of ‘critical.’
New data suggests two in every five Yemenis children of this age group are stunted, while 13 percent are acutely malnourished. Food insecurity, according to the Survey, varies greatly within different areas of the country.
The WFP describes Yemen as having experienced “large-scale displacement, civil conflict, political instability, high food prices, endemic poverty, a breakdown of social services, diminishing resources and influxes of refugees and migrants.”
As of July 9, fighting in the Omran province displaced an estimated 35,000 Yemenis and resulted in the death of hundreds. Less than one week ago, tribesmen blew up the nation’s largest oil pipeline in the Habab district of Marib, which had previously provided the government with export revenues. Before the attack, the pipeline carried 100,000 barrels per day, and with its destruction, the government must now import oil and resell it at a loss.
Similar attacks have led to fuel shortages and power outages nation-wide.
Yemen has seen years of instability following the protests against the government that began in 2011 and forced President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years of holding power. The country has since become one of the poorest of the Arab world, with poverty rising by 12.5 percent from 2009 to 2012 and a Gross National Income of $1,330 in 2013.
Oxfam estimates hunger in Yemen doubled since 2009. The nation’s population growth rate — one of the highest in the world at 2.3 percent annually — certainly has not helped the situation.
In the wake of continued economic woes and new clashes between Shi’ite rebels of the Houthi tribe and tribesmen of the Hashid, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi ordered new measures of austerity last week. The cutbacks will largely affect those working within the government, although experts believe the effects may spread.
The WFP, which has operated in Yemen since 1967, received a €10 million donation from the government of Germany as well as 21,800 metric tons of wheat from the U.S. With its newest campaign, the WFP plans to aid an additional six million suffering from hunger in Yemen.
Its operations in Yemen focus on emergency food assistance and cash transfers, food assistance to those displaced by conflict and the nutrition of young children and pregnant and nursing women. The International Monetary Fund has also offered the government of Yemen a $550 million loan with certain conditions.
“For the political process to succeed, people need to be able to live normal lives,” said Bishow Parajuli, the WFP Yemen Country Director. “And not have to worry about where their next meal is coming from.”