Yemen Media Backgrounder

Published on 05 May 2010

The United Nations World Food Programme is aiming to provide food assistance to some 1.5 million Yemenis per month, including approximately 270,000 who have been displaced by conflict in northern Yemen.

“Multiple internal and external challenges have left Yemen in a state of emergency,” said WFP’s Yemen Country Director, Gian Carlo Cirri. “Growing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in the country present a new front. If not addressed, this could prove to be the tipping point.”
Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, is coping with tens of thousands of internally displaced people, increasing numbers of refugees arriving from the Horn of Africa, and also the longer term impact of high food prices and the global financial crisis.

Hunger and malnutrition are widespread, but WFP is finding it hard to raise the money to fund its programmes, said Cirri: “There has been a lot of talk within the international community about helping Yemen, but very little money,” he said. “In funding humanitarian operations, you are buying stability at a relatively cheap price.”

Hunger Facts:

•    Preliminary results of a WFP Comprehensive Food Security Survey earlier this year revealed that one in every three Yemenis, or 7.2 million people, is suffering from chronic hunger. 

•    Twelve percent of the population is in the “severely food insecure” category (some 2.7 million Yemenis). 

•    Yemen is ranked as one of the most food insecure countries in the world, according to the Global Hunger Index (2009).
•    More than half of all children under five are underweight - 2.6 million children (according to UNICEF State of the World’s Children) – ranking Yemen as the country with the third highest rates of underweight children after India and Bangladesh (HDR 2009).

•    Rates of chronic malnutrition (stunting) are second only to Afghanistan globally. 

WFP Operations:

•    In August 2009, fighting re-erupted in the north-western governorate of Sa’ada.

•    Since then, WFP has reached 269,000 internally displaced people with monthly rations of food in Sa’ada, Hajjah, Al Jawf, Sana’a and Amran governorates.

•    Humanitarian access, to Sa’ada town in particular, has been extremely limited.  However, WFP has maintained operations in Sa’ada town throughout the conflict thanks to its cooperating partner, Islamic Relief.

•    WFP is hoping to re-open its office in Sa’ada and return its staff following a humanitarian assessment mission to the town in March.

•    Overall in Yemen, WFP aims to provide food assistance to more than 1.5 million people per month including:

        - Sa’ada IDPs (269,000 per month);

        - Refugees from Somalia (reaching some 38,000 per month);

        - Vulnerable people most affected by high food prices focusing on malnourished mothers and children (planned 242,000 monthly);

       - WFP’s Country Programme aims to reach nearly 1 million people with a safety net aimed at poor, rural, malnourished families, with a focus on girls’ education     and mother/child health and nutrition.


•    WFP’s Emergency Operation in Yemen is facing a dramatic funding shortfall, having received less than 30 percent of the funding it requires to maintain its activities.

•    In order to make the increasingly limited quantities of food last longer, WFP has had to reduce rations to 50 percent of the planned food basket beneficiaries receive, reducing the daily kilocalorie intake provided per person from the minimum recommended amount of 2,100 kcal to 1,050 kcal per person.

•    WFP's regular food distribution to IDPs affected by the Sa'ada conflict has contributed to stabilizing the levels of acute malnutrition and mortality among the IDP population. Ration cuts could reverse this progress and lead to a hike in the rates of malnutrition and mortality among an already suffering population.

•    WFP is facing a shortfall of 75 percent of its requirements in Yemen, meaning that more than US$ 75 million is required to support 3.4 million people in need of food assistance.

•    This would avoid further ration reductions or cuts in programmes supporting the food needs of malnourished mothers and children, severely food insecure families who are unable to meet their food needs, school girls, Somali refugees, and IDPs.

•    WFP is working with government donors, at both country and regional levels, with the aim of attracting the funds it needs to cover the shortfall. The United States was the first donor to come forward this year, with a donation of nearly US$5 million to the Yemen programme. WFP also received nearly US$3 million for refugee and nutrition operations from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund.