Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s plea for “humanitarian assistance throughout Yemen” must be followed with robust action by the U.S. and its allies.
There is a severe risk of famine in the impoverished Middle Eastern nation. The United States and other donor nations must increase their food aid to Yemen.
The United Nations World Food Programme says there are now 17 million people in Yemen struggling to find food, with about 7 million needing emergency aid just to survive.
To put Yemen's crisis in perspective, more than two-thirds of Yemen's population is living in hunger.
Yemen has long been the poorest country in the Middle East. Child malnutrition rates have been among the highest in the world for years. This has been a major source of instability.
The outbreak of civil war has made things even worse. While the conflict has allowed Al-Qaeda to gain strength, it has also dramatically worsened food shortages.
The Yemeni people face the most powerful of all enemies: hunger.
We have to act now to save Yemenis from starvation. Stephen Anderson, the World Food Programme's (WFP) director in Yemen, says “Tragically, we see more and more families skipping meals or going to bed hungry, while children and mothers are slipping away with little to sustain themselves."
The WFP is the largest hunger relief organization, and they depend on U.S. donations. If they don't get enough donations Yemenis will starve.
Anderson warns, "WFP is urgently calling for support to provide food for the seven million people who are severely food insecure and may not survive this situation for much longer.”
WFP’s Salma Bahramy says the UN food agency needs 950 million dollars in 2017 to feed about 7 million Yemenis. Right now Bahramy says, “due to funding constraints, WFP is currently unable to provide a full, regular ration.”
Humanitarian aid by WFP, UNICEF and other relief organizations must get more support. This has to come by U.S. leadership working with other donor countries. We must also demand that the opposing sides in Yemen’s civil war allow full access to civilians.
It’s critical we stop the famine. We cannot achieve peace in Yemen or anywhere in the globe where there is hunger.
The U.S. has to make fighting hunger a priority at this critical time in Yemen and elsewhere. The US famine warning system (FEWSNET) stated in January, "Given persistent conflict, severe drought, and economic instability, FEWS NET estimates that 70 million people, across 45 countries, will require emergency food assistance this year."
Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen face the most severe risk of famine. There is also the continuing hunger tragedies caused by the wars in Syria and Iraq. Drought has struck other nations including Ethiopia and Madagascar.
To deal with this crisis the Congress will have to provide extra funding to our aid programs including Food for Peace, Feed the Future and the McGovern-Dole international school lunch program.
Like we did after World War II to prevent famine, the United States will have to step up its hunger relief efforts. Food has again become top priority for our foreign policy.
Yemen is where the food is needed most urgently. Remember this: small children suffer lasting physical and mental damage from the lack of food. Or they may perish from starvation.
We must respond quickly with food for peace in Yemen.