Alarming Hunger Levels in Yemen, Report Says

Recent international reports confirmed the alarming prevalence of food insecurity in

Yemen, as one in three Yemenis has difficult access to sufficient nutrition.

The Food Policy Research Institute (FPRI), which monitors 122 developing countries including Middle Eastern states, released a report this October mentioning that virtually all of the Middle East was tagged as suffering “low” rates of hunger, with Syria and Morocco cited as having “moderate” rates. Yemen, however, was the only country in the region to be listed as having an “alarming” rate.

The Washington-based organization, ranked Yemen in 74th out of 85 developing countries, referring to the severe domestic challenges that affect food security, including a lack of job-creation within the oil-dependent economic structure – a distorted economic model. In addition, rapidly depleting oil and water resources, and the growing production and consumption of Qat (a leafy plant consumed as a stimulant and appetite suppressant, whose production uses 40 percent of all available water resources, were principal challenges.

The report also warned that if no action is taken, food security is expected to remain at extremely low levels through 2020 and ‘’Yemen will remain highly vulnerable to external shocks and disasters.”

The World Food Program (WFP) in Yemen estimated that 7.2 million out of the 23 million Yemenis (31.5 percent) are face food insecurity. Within this group, 2.5 million people (11.8 percent) were found to face severe food insecurity.

The WFP, which carried out a nationwide comprehensive food security survey (CFSS) between September 2009 and January 2010, said that Yemeni rural areas are more affected with double the share of food-insecure people of urban areas. That is , 37.3 percent of the rural population is food insecure compared to 17.7 percent of the urban population. In addition, 62.1 percent of rural children were ‘stunted’ compared to 45.4 percent of urban children.

The governorates of Ibb, Taiz, Hajja, Hodeidah and Amran host 61 percent of those deemed food-insecure and 66 percent of severely food-insecure people in the country, said the report.

It added that water scarcity and limited rainfall over the past few years has critically affected farming and livestock rearing, the main livelihoods for most rural people, which contributed to create this gap in food security between urban and rural areas.

In additions, rural areas were characterized with far higher fertility rates compounded with a limited access to education and low household incomes.

“Total fertility is higher in rural areas, where women on average have more than two more children than their urban counterparts; the average rural Yemeni woman will bear almost seven children (6.7), whereas the total fertility rate in urban areas is 4.5,” the report said.

However, the report highlighted that these recent circumstances have substantially exacerbated the situation and increased the proportion of ‘hungry’ Yemenis around the country

‘’Poverty has been on the rise since 2006 when food and fuel prices started to increase and the global financial crisis – together known as the “Triple F” crisis – negatively affected the country,’’ the report went on to say.

The report indicates that Yemen has already confronted a number of challenges that negatively impact on the population’s overall well-being, including complex political crises in several parts of the country, recurrent droughts and floods and the increased influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa and Internally Displaced Persons in the north.

The report calls to what it named medium to long-term interventions, which includes expansion of food availability at household and community levels in rural areas through local agriculture, by addressing the declining productivity growth of cereals, horticultural crops and livestock, by providing access to improved, economically viable water management and irrigation techniques and by improving storage and conservation facilities, and the establishment of a food security monitoring system, including nutrition surveillance and market price monitoring system.

The report also emphasized on the short-term response options like providing emergency food-based safety nets for the poorest and most food-insecure households in rural and urban areas, complementing the Social Welfare Fund’s cash transfer system and other existing safety nets.