The United Nations World Food Programme has allocated $213 million towards providing food aid for Yemenis in 2012.
This is an increase of almost $100 million from last year, which will allow the WFP to deliver 200,000 metric tons of food to 3.5 million people.
Political upheaval and mass protests throughout 2011 pushed Yemen into a humanitarian crisis, while an influx of refugees fleeing war and famine in the Horn of Africa only increased the need for aid.
While the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is currently assessing the impact of 2011’s unrest on food security in Yemen, with the results of its research to be published in March, it was noted that “price hikes are having a crippling effect on the population.”
Georgia Warner, WFP reports and advocacy officer, said, “On average, the cost of the main food commodities has risen by 46 percent since January 2011. Bread costs 50 percent more in Sana’a than it did six months ago; water prices have risen between three and sevenfold.
“Furthermore, if the rial – which currently sits at approximately 239 to the US dollar on the black market – reaches 300 to the dollar, an additional 15 percent of Yemen’s citizens will be living below the poverty line,” she added.
The WFP will be expanding its Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Support for the Vulnerable Population Operation, launched at the start of last year, to include 1.8 million food insecure Yemenis living in the poorest 14 governorates, especially during the May-October “hunger season.”
Um Lutf of Sa’wan, Sana’a, is a mother of six. Her husband works as a street cleaner and earns just YR 25,000 or $110 a month. Following the death of her brother, his four children also live in the family’s two-room house.
“Everything has become more expensive. We were not able to buy the basics before and now it is even worse,” she said.
“My husband buys a sack of wheat [50 kilograms] and tries to make it last the whole month. But sometimes we run out of cooking gas,” she explained. “Usually we are hungry.”
Yemen is battling myriad humanitarian crises, with the organization providing assistance to families affected by conflict in the north and the south of the country. The WFP will target more than 550,000 people, including 139,000 children under five years of age, and pregnant or breastfeeding women at an estimated cost of $110 million.
Over 120,000 people registered as internally displaced in the southern governorates of Abyan, Aden, Lahj and Shabwa as a result of fighting between the government and armed Islamists in Abyan. The WFP has expanded its food aid to 70,000 people in these areas, many of whom have been living in schools in Aden for months.
Of its $213 million budget for 2012, $110 million has been allocated for humanitarian relief and $96 million to assist vulnerable populations and Somali refugees. A further $5 million will go towards its Food for Girls’ Education program and $2 million for its UN Humanitarian Air Service, used by aid and development agencies.
It is estimated that 7.2 million Yemenis – almost a third of the population – are food insecure, with 13 percent “very insecure.” Not meeting with improved conditions, some 44 percent of the population is now “poor” according to the WFP – a 25 percent increase on 2006 figures.
In a country where 80 percent of food is imported, “a substantial part of the population cannot meet their requirements due to a lack of resources,” said WFP. “Yemen has been severely affected by high food prices.”