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UNICEF, WFP warn hunger still major crisis in Yemen

Plumpy-Doz is provided for "at-risk" children under five to help prevent malnutrition.
Plumpy-Doz is provided for "at-risk" children under five to help prevent malnutrition.
WFP/Fares Khoailed

The United Nations, in a press release today, said that more than 40 percent of Yemen's population is suffering from hunger. These were early findings from a survey by UNICEF and the UN World Food Programme (WFP), two agencies on the frontlines of fighting hunger.

The survey also shows that five million Yemenis suffer from severe hunger, and another five million on the brink. Child malnutrition is still at serious levels.

WFP Yemen Country Director Bishow Parajuli says, “I am saddened by these continuing high rates. WFP’s new operation, which will feed six million people, aims to address the problem. We are now focusing more on building sustainable livelihoods and resilience, so that people are able to help themselves.”

In the Northern governorate of Sa'ada almost 70 percent of people suffer from hunger. In the western coastal governorates of Taiz, Hodeidah and Hajja child malnutrition was at its most serious levels. In the governorate of Al Mahweet, which is west of the capital of Sana’a, more than 60 percent of children are stunted in growth. Malnutrition is so serious that it causes this kind of lasting physical as well as mental damage in children.

Jeremy Hopkins, Acting UNICEF Representative in Yemen, says, "Children remain the most vulnerable in terms of food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen. Of the estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five, more than 2 in 5 are stunted while almost 13 percent are acutely malnourished.”

Some areas did show a decrease in hunger levels including Ibb, Sana’a, Mareb and Rayma. However, the findings also showed the central governorate of Shabwa going from a 38 percent hunger rate to 57 percent since the last study.

WFP, in partnership with UNICEF, is launching a major hunger relief operation this month. However, last month a WFP report said it was short US $ 80 million in funding for 2014 operations.

The ongoing war in Syria, plus major humanitarian emergencies in Africa, will make it harder to secure funding for the relief of Yemen. WFP relies entirely on voluntary donations from governments and the public.

Yemen cannot develop as a country with such high rates of hunger. Parajuli adds "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."