A Yemeni man carries away a box of cooking oil from a WFP food distribution in Yemen in late 2011.
(Copyright: WFP/Abeer Etefa).
SANAA – Food insecurity in Yemen has reached alarming levels, with almost five million people unable to produce or buy the food they need, according to the preliminary findings of a survey carried out by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in cooperation with the Yemeni Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) and UNICEF.
“Hunger is on the increase in Yemen and rising food prices combined with conflict are taking their toll on many families,” said WFP’s Yemen Representative Lubna Alaman.
The WFP food security survey reveals that 22 percent of the population – some five million people - are experiencing severe food insecurity. This is nearly double the level of severe food insecurity measured in 2009, and above the threshold at which external food assistance is normally required.
At the same time, the survey found that a further five million people are moderately food insecure, and at risk of becoming severely food insecure in the face of rising food and fuel prices and conflict.
Cash For Food
One of the ways WFP combats urban hunger is by giving families cash with which to buy food. This is a good solution when there is food in markets but people lack the means to buy it. See photo gallery.
“What this shows is that almost one quarter of the Yemeni population needs emergency food assistance now,” Alaman added.
In urban areas, where civil unrest has hit hardest, more than a quarter of households said insecurity had reduced their ability to buy food.
WFP has already scaled up its humanitarian assistance in 2012 to feed 3.6 million vulnerable people in the wake of the sharp hikes in food prices and displacement of people fleeing conflict in the northern and the southern regions of the country. WFP is prioritizing 1.8 million severely food insecure Yemenis, especially women and children, living in the poorest 14 governorates as well as around 670,000 internally displaced and conflict-affected people.
The survey, which was conducted during November and December 2011, interviewed almost 8,000 households in 19 out of 21 governorates. It also examined the nutritional and food consumption status of more than 11,000 children and around 10,000 mothers between the ages of 15 and 49.
The final report of the survey, which will be available in late April, will include detailed findings on nutrition. Initial results suggest that Yemen’s Global Acute Malnutrition rate is alarming in many parts of the country.
In the governorate of Hodeidah, acute malnutrition rates are the worst in the country at an estimated 28 percent, well above the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent. Chronic malnutrition among children is also of serious concern. In the governorate of Al Mahweet, for example, an estimated 63.5 percent of the children are suffering from stunted growth.
WFP will be working with humanitarian partners on the ground to ensure that the immediate needs of the severely food insecure are met and calls for joint action to scale up assistance to the vulnerable Yemeni population.