It often goes unreported, with other countries in the Middle East garnering all the headlines, but since the Arab Spring in 2011 poverty levels have been increasing dramatically in the small nation of Yemen. As a result, roughly one fifth of the country’s population, 5 million people, are suffering through a severe food crisis. This number includes one million acutely malnourished children. According to a World Food Programme (WFP) report, half of the children in Yemen under the age of 5 have had their growth stunted.
With only 3% of Yemen’s land being arable and the rising poverty levels preventing people from buying imported food, the situation is only going to worsen. Currently, WFP operates an emergency program in the country with a budget of $250 million. But with the increased shortages this year, the program needs an additional $80 million in order to complete extended operations.
The humanitarian crisis does not end with the food shortage. 6 million people in Yemen have no access to healthcare, and beyond the 5 million suffering severe food shortages an additional 5 million are in need of food aid. Additionally, 340,000 people have been displaced due to fighting since the Arab Spring, placing a further strain on aid efforts.
The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is an international initiative aiming to provide assistance to one third of the population of Yemen. In order to meet targets, like providing food to 7 million people, water to 3 million, and healthcare services for 4.2 million, agencies are seeking $716 million in aid money. Currently funding has provided less than half of that target. If funding goals can be reached, assistance can also be provided in education and protection services, possibly affecting half a million children.
With Yemen’s transition towards full democracy and general elections scheduled for 2014, it is crucial that the humanitarian situation be addressed. Otherwise, internal strife could ultimately derail the whole process.
– David M. Wilson