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Funding Shortfalls Threaten Food Aid

In the midst of the United Nations World Food Program announcement this week of its annual operations for the year 2011, the organization claimed a $79.1 million shortfall in its necessary funding, which might lead to the curtailment of emergency and nutritional food aid throughout the country.

The WFP launched a two-year initiative, entitled the “Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Support to the Vulnerable Population in Yemen” in response to earlier research by the group which found that that 7.2 million Yemenis are food-insecure.

According to the organization, if urgent financial support for their activities is not acquired soon, many of its life-saving operations will need to be cut back.  These include the food rations to internally displaced persons in Sa’ada, air shipments of emergency supplies to the war-torn North, and schooling for Somali refugees in the Kharaz Camp in Shabwa.

“The new operation launched on the first of January includes a very, very robust safety net which assists 1.8 million people,” said Georgia Warner, WFP’s Media and External Relations representative in Yemen.

She described the campaign as an exceptional model, since the proposed “safety net” is meant neither as a permanent fixture of food distribution in Yemen, nor simply as an emergency operation, but “an interim measure, which lies somewhere between emergency work and development.”

WFP country director, Gian Carlo Cirri was quoted as saying, “this operation is expected to address this peak in high food prices while developmental partners expand existing safety nets.”

“The operation includes a pilot cash scheme with a very strong evaluation component which will allow us to determine in what areas cash or food is the most efficient means to address food insecurity and poverty,”

The impact of the global financial crisis, poor governance, conflict, unemployment, and arid lands have contributed to the onset of a food crisis in Yemen of unprecedented proportions.

All this coincides with a spike in international and regional food prices, which have sparked unrest from Algeria to Jordan, and which was instrumental in the recent uprising in Tunisia.

On developments related to food in Yemen, Ms. Warner noted, “it’s a tricky context to make any sort of predictions.  We’ve yet to see the results of what has happened in with Sa’ada, and there are high food prices, elections, the gender discrepancy, and a water shortage, while oil revenues are nearly gone.”

“Not just one of these factors is causing food insecurity, they all are,” she noted.

The estimated cost of the two-year operation, projected to cost US$ 77 million, will assist 682,000 children, 88,000 pregnant and lactating women, and over 1.8 million food insecure Yemenis.

The Ministery of Public and International Cooperation endorsed the new operation by signing an agreement to support its ongoing activities.