The World Food Programme announced today that it was expanding its operation in Yemen to feed thousands more Somali refugees fleeing the conflict in their country.
Now is the time when we most need international support
Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdulkarim Al-Ar’habi
“More and more people are arriving on Yemen’s shores after barely surviving the dangerous journey by boat. It is up to us to help them as Yemen’s economy is already overstretched,” said WFP Yemen Country Director Mohamed El-Kouhene.
Since 1992, African refugees, mostly Somalis, have been streaming into Yemen, just across the Red Sea from the Horn of Africa.
Many of them hope to make their way to the oil-rich Gulf states. Now the Yemeni government says, with its limited resources, it is no longer able to cope with new arrivals and has urged the international community for more assistance.
The agency appealled for US$4.4 million in funds for the operation, which runs from February 2008 to January 2010, providing a total of 5,000 metric tons of food to 43,500 of the most vulnerable refugees. This is up from 33,000 people it was previously helping.
In the past year alone, nearly 30,000 people landed in Yemen after crossing the Gulf of Aden while more than 1,400 died or are missing presumed dead. Most of the arrivals were Somalis and many said conditions in Somalia were so bad that they felt they had to risk the sea crossing.
More than 670,000 people fled fighting in the Somali capital Mogadishu in 2007. WFP expects to feed 1.8 million people in Somalia in 2008, up from 1.53 million in 2007.
Upon their arrival in Yemen, the refugees receive food from WFP for the first few days until they are moved to the refugee camp of Kharaz where they receive a monthly ration.
In addition, WFP provides supplementary food to malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers, as well as providing a midday meal to children in school.
“We are grateful that WFP is responding to the needs of an increasing number of refugees. Now is the time when we most need international support,” said Yemen’s Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Abdulkarim Al-Ar’habi.
El-Kouhene said the recent increase in beneficiaries was based on the anticipated arrival of new refugees at transit centres in Yemen, as well as refugee population growth at the isolated camp of Kharaz in Lahj Governorate where job opportunities are scarce.
To that end, the operation will also include food assistance in return for work and/or training to help refugees become more self-sufficient.
The operation will be implemented in cooperation with the Government of Yemen and in partnership with UN High Commissioner for Refugees and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
Four-year country programme
In addition to this operation, WFP has a US$47.8 million four-year country programme to assist about 1.6 million Yemenis. The programme aims to increase girls’ access to education and improve the health of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women and tuberculosis and leprosy patients.
WFP also assists 77,000 people displaced by conflict in Sa’ada governorate, where Yemeni Government forces have been battling followers of a rebel movement since 2004.
WFP has provided around US$400 million of food assistance to Yemen since 1967, when the country was split into North and South.