SANA’A – Preliminary findings of a new survey by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) show that while food security has improved in some areas, over 10 million Yemenis – more than 40 percent of the population – don’t know where their next meal will come from.
Around five million people were found to be severely food insecure, suffering from levels of hunger where external food assistance is generally required and the prevalence of chronic malnutrition among children under the age of five is beyond the international benchmark of “critical.” The Comprehensive Food Security Survey, which is usually held every two years, also shows that Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) rates in Yemen are serious across most of the country and at emergency levels in some areas. The survey is carried out with the support of Yemen’s Central Statistical Office and funding from the United States government.
Levels of food insecurity across the country showed a slight decline from 45 percent to 41 percent, since the last similar survey in 2011, but there were huge variations among different governorates. In the northern governorate of Sa’ada, almost 70 percent of people were food-insecure, compared with fewer than 10 percent in Al Mahra in the east. Rural areas are worst affected.
Similar disparities are evident in malnutrition rates in different parts of the country, with Global Acute Malnutrition rates ranging from critical, denoting an emergency, in the western coastal governorates of Taiz, Hodeidah and Hajja, to serious or poor in almost all other governorates.
“I am saddened by these continuing high rates. WFP’s new operation, which will feed six million people, aims to address the problem,” said WFP Yemen Country Director Bishow Parajuli. “We are now focusing more on building sustainable livelihoods and resilience, so that people are able to help themselves.”
Parajuli added that food insecurity had an impact on the country’s stability: “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,” he said.
Twelve governorates have critical levels of stunting, a condition caused by chronic malnutrition, where children fail to grow properly over time and never reach their physical and mental potential. Worst-affected is the governorate of Al Mahweet, west of Sana’a, where more than 60 percent of children are stunted, or short for their age. Seven governorates have serious levels (between 30 and 39.9 percent) and two are classified as poor (20-29.9 percent).
“Children remain the most vulnerable in terms of food insecurity and malnutrition in Yemen,” said Jeremy Hopkins, Acting UNICEF Representative 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.”
There is an urgent need for an integrated response in addressing malnutrition. “UNICEF will continue to partner with WFP in ensuring a coordinated response to address severe and moderate acute malnutrition, especially in areas of greatest need,” Hopkins emphasized.
There was some improvement in food security and a decrease in hunger levels in Ibb, Sana’a, Mareb and Rayma but a severe deterioration in the central governorate of Shabwa, from nearly 38 percent food insecure in 2011 to more than 57 percent in 2014.
The data was gathered from all 22 of Yemen’s governorates, based on more than 10,500 household interviews and measurements taken from some 14,000 women and 13,500 children.
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