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Yemen – The nation of the hungry

THE LEVANT EXCLUSIVE – By Catherine Shakdam – While Yemen has long battled hunger and food insecurity, most and acutely since 2011 when the uprising came to upset an already fragile balance, plunging millions under the poverty threshold, the impoverished nation has reached an unsustainable food crisis level, where famine has become not a threat but a reality.

According to the United Nations’ latest data, an estimated 10 million Yemenis, that’s just over 40% of the total population face an acute and aggravated food crisis. Millions of families simply do not know where their next meal will come from or if it will come at all.

Millions of people have been forced to go to sleep on an empty stomach, mothers and fathers have slashed down their daily food intake to ensure that their children will have some bread, however meagre the portion, on their plate.

Such levels of depravity are not only dangerous but they are unsustainable.

Yemen aggravated food crisis is already weighting heavy on the nation’s future as many children have shown signs of stunting. Stunting growth occurs when a child is not given adequate nutrients. As explained by UNICEF, “Stunting (or stunted growth) is what happens to a child’s brain and body when they don’t get the right kind of food or nutrients in their first 1,000 days of life. The damage is irreversible. That child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life.”

Unless Yemenis receive humanitarian aid, their very future could be challenged. Yemen’s future generations will quite literally pay for the sins of their elders, or rather, become the unwarranted victims of political wrangling.

Yemen acting representative in Yemen, Jeremy Hopkins, noted that“Of the estimated 4.5 million children under the age of five, more than two in five are stunted while almost 13% are acutely malnourished.”

Those numbers are simply harrowing. The very idea that Yemen’s children are wasting away while billions in aid have been pledged towards Yemen reconstruction plan is difficult to reconcile. Yemenis have said to be utterly flabbergasted by what they perceive as officials’ apathy before such misery.

A once hopeful nation, Yemen has become an empty shell where life has become but a heavy burden to bear.

Several humanitarian workers have explained that what Yemen is experiencing is actually the result of state mis-management and officials’ failures to palliate to Yemen’s dependency on food import.

Commenting on Yemen’s food crisis, UN World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Greg Barrow said Yemen’s long-running food crisis stems from civil conflict and resulting displacement, endemic poverty, political instability, a refugee influx from the Horn of Africa, and high food prices. Yemen imports 90% of its food.

He added that Yemen is competing in terms of humanitarian fund allocations with other countries in the world, at a time when money is much harder to come by. He stressed, “One issue it is important to point out about Yemen is that there is a great shortage of funds,” Barrow told Thomson Reuters Foundation on Tuesday. “We are at a time when there are many international humanitarian crises competing for attention and funds, which often has a knock-on effect.”

As it stands now, Yemen only accessed 34.2% of the $592 million it will need to offer its people humanitarian assistance, notwithstanding the many reforms which the state will have to implement to prevent the country from undergoing similar difficulties in the future.

Yemen faces hardship of epic proportion. If the Yemeni nation is to overcome its many overlapping crises, mountains will have to be moved.

World Food Program has already confirmed that it only accessed 22% of the funds it needs to fund its operations in Yemen, a mere drop in the ocean when we look at the country’s hunger crisis.

Keen to make Yemen’s food crisis in terms politicians can relate to, both within and without Yemen, Bishow Parajuli, WFP country spokesman for Yemen, said in a statement: “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.”

And indeed, unless Yemenis are allowed to live in dignity, unrest and tensions will continue to plague the nation, darkening what should be a bright and promising future.

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