Threats to Food Security

  • High food prices
  • Political instability
  • Population displacement
  • Environmental degradation
  • Influx of refugees



Yemen is facing an increasingly complex and deteriorating humanitarian situation which is leaving many families in a hunger trap and absolute poverty. 

The country is one of the world’s most food insecure and least developed. The food, fuel and financial crises led to an increase in poverty from 35 percent in 2006 to an estimated 43 percent today. With a country revenue that is heavily dependent on oil exports, the sharp fall in oil prices and production is having a serious effect on the domestic economy, limiting the government’s ability to provide basic services. 

Hunger and malnutrition are widespread in the country and requires urgent intervention. 

Yemen is ranked the 11th most food insecure country globally. Overall, one in three Yemenis are acutely hungry; they do not have sufficient resources to access nutritious food necessary for a healthy and productive life. 

Half of the country's children are chronically malnourished and less than 1 in 10 children live to reach the age of 5. Such emergency levels of chronic malnutrition - or stunting - are second globally only to Afghanistan. Yemen has the third highest rates of underweight children in the world after India and Bangladesh; affecting more than half of all children under 5 are underweight. 

Yemen’s population of 23 million has one of the highest growth rates in the world estimated at 3.1 percent per year. The country suffers from rising unemployment and high poverty rates. Low education levels have led to high illiteracy rates at 66 percent for women and 27 percent for men. The situation of women is of particular concern and gender disparities in Yemen are the highest in the world.


A variety of internal and external factors are putting further strain on Yemen’s limited resources. 

Since a civil war broke out in Somalia nearly 20 years ago, hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Horn of Africa have crossed the Gulf of Aden. Yemen is also dealing with a humanitarian situation where a 6-year conflict originating in north-western Sa’ada governorate has displaced some 350,000 people and affected many more. Yemenis who have been internally displaced by the Sa’ada conflict and African refugees continue to rely entirely on humanitarian agencies for survival.

The dire situation is further compounded by climate change, water scarcity, population growth, gender disparities, low levels of education and general insecurity. Over the past decade, a series of natural disasters, including floods, earthquakes and locust swarms have affected the homes and livelihoods of thousands of families. 

In the current situation where families are trapped in extreme vulnerability, any new shock no matter how minor it is could easily push millions over the edge.  

WFP Activities

WFP has been in Yemen since 1967 with offices currently in Sana’a, Amran, Aden, Sa’ada, Hajjah, and Hodeidah.

Interventions promote a twin-track approach addressing severe food insecurity and acute malnutrition as well as chronic hunger and malnutrition. Operations focus on key challenges facing Yemen: gender disparities and low levels of education, the Sa’ada conflict and resulting displacement, the growing influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa, and malnutrition and food insecurity above emergency levels. 

This strategy has been designed in collaboration with key partners and stakeholders and the agency is working to build the preparedness and response capacity of the government and partners.

WFP’s current portfolio aims to provide some 3.1 million extremely vulnerable people with critical food and nutrition support on a monthly basis.

However, the agency’s ability to meet its commitments to beneficiaries is severely challenged by dire funding shortfalls. In the final quarter of 2010, WFP is facing a shortfall of 45 percent of its requirements for the year, with a budget of US$108 million for 2010, US$47 million still needs to be resourced this year to sustain vulnerable populations. Due to the ration cuts, beneficiaries and rations under life-saving and safety net operations have already been reduced, leaving refugees, wasting children, pregnant mothers, severely food-insecure Yemenis and conflict affected persons without necessary support.

Currently, the agency has 5 operations on the ground.

Emergency food security and nutrition support to vulnerable populations
In response to the findings of the recent WFP food security survey, WFP launched a highly targeted and calibrated emergency food safety net programme during the hunger season (May-October) for 1.7 million most severely food insecure in complement to the Government’s Social Welfare Fund. The assistance allows families to meet the residual caloric gap between the minimum caloric requirement and the typical food intake of a food-insecure household; this gap is calculated at 500 kcal/person/day. WFP and partners use schools as a platform for distribution in order to have the greatest outreach in rural areas, all the while taking the opportunity to promote girls’ enrolment.

The agency, in cooperation with the Ministry of Health, provides monthly nutrition support to 242,000 beneficiaries. In order to address the inter generational cycle of malnutrition and prevent malnutrition, WFP provides blanket supplementary feeding for children from 6 to 24 months as well as targeted support to malnourished pregnant/lactating mothers. For moderate acute malnourished children from 6 to 59 months, targeted feeding using ready to use supplementary foods is curative. The ration also acts as an incentive to visit health centers and receive treatment, vaccines, nutrition/health education and pre/post natal care

Emergency assistance to families affected by the Sa’ada conflict
WFP provides monthly food and nutrition support to more than 300,000 IDPs, including 60,000 children under 5, scattered in camps, open areas, and with host families in Hajjah, Al Jawf, Sa’ada, Sana’a, and Amran governorates.

Regular and widespread assistance has improved the food consumption of beneficiaries and has contributed to stabilizing the levels of acute malnutrition and mortality among the IDP population. Moreover, in Sa’ada town WFP food played a role in maintaining food prices at relatively normal levels during the war despite the near blockade on the town.

Cooperating partners include Islamic Relief and ADRA. WFP and ICRC have a memorandum of understanding towards increased coordination.

Relief and Recovery Assistance for Refugees from the Horn of Africa
WFP has provided food assistance to Somali refugees in Yemen since 1992. The current operation provides immediate ready to eat food to refugees upon arrival to Yemen’s shores as well as cooked meals at reception centers; distributes monthly full food rations to families living in Kharaz Refugee Camp; maintains the nutrition status of children and malnourished pregnant/lactating mothers through supplementary feeding programmes in the camp and urban area of Al Basateen in Aden; and encourages children to attend school through the provision of cooked school meals in the camp and urban area. A voucher for vocational training scheme is planned for urban refugees. On a monthly basis, some 39,000 refugees benefit from WFP assistance.

If food assistance were to be suspended in Kharaz camp, 90 percent of refugees would fall into food-insecurity.

WFP cooperates with a number of local and international NGOs and UN agencies.

Country Programme: Food for Girls’ Education and Food for Mother/Child Health and Nutrition
WFP provides food to malnourished mothers, children, and TB/leprosy patients, contributing to improved health/nutrition and promoting attendance at health centers to receive vaccines and pre/post natal care. Across 19 of 21 governorates, take-home food rations act as an incentive to send girls to primary and secondary school and provide a safety net for poor, rural and food insecure families. The operation contributes to addressing key short, medium and long term challenges including: critical gender gap, illiteracy, low nutrition and health education, child marriage, maternal/child mortality, and high population growth. In 2010, more than 1 million persons are planned to benefit from the operation.

Within the first year of Food for Education activities, girls’ enrollment increased by 60 percent, in some cases surpassing that of boys. In addition, the food serves has served as a valuable income transfer and safety net for vulnerable families.

WFP cooperates with the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health.

Air Passenger Service and Logistics Cluster Coordination in Support of the Humanitarian Response in Sa’ada
WFP in its capacity as Logistics Cluster lead and custodian of the United Nations Humanitarian Air Services, supports the efforts of the Humanitarian Community to respond to the Sa’ada crisis in Yemen in order to enhance the predictability, timeliness and efficiency of the emergency response; and facilitate the access of humanitarian personnel and light cargo to the affected areas and ensure operational continuity.

WFP Offices

Head Office