Global Hunger Index 2008: Yemen’s score improves by almost one point [Archives:2008/1200/Local News]

October 20 2008

By: Alice Hackman
SANA'A, Oct. 19 ) Despite price hikes and the global food crisis, Yemen has dropped 0.9 point compared to 1991 in the Global Hunger Index 2008 released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on World Food Day on 16 October last week.

In the Global Hunger Index, researchers evaluated each country surveyed on under-nourishment, prevalence of child malnutrition and rates of child mortality and gave them a score -the lower, the better- to reflect their performance.

Yemen, which scored 29.8 this year compared to 30.7 in 1991, was ranked 80th out of the 88 countries surveyed.

Mauritius, which came first on the index, scored only 5.0 points, while Ethiopia and Eritrea were ranked 82nd and 87th on the index with 31 and 39 points respectively.

Despite progress, child malnutrition in Yemen still severe

The Global Hunger Index pointed to levels of underweight children in Yemen as being among the worst in the world.

According to the WFP office in Sana'a, the current food crisis has had a profound affect on malnutrition levels in Yemen, seeing as the price of basic food staples has doubled since the same time last year.

“The World Bank has found that an additional six percent or more of Yemenis have fallen below the poverty line due to rising food costs,” said the WFP office in Yemen. This means that around than half of the population are living below the poverty line.

Fuel price hikes and the global increase of the cost of food have affected the food situation in Yemen, a country that imports up to 80 percent of its food, it said.

WFP called on Yemeni farmers to replace qat with wheat and pulses in their fields to reduce dependency on foreign imports, and declared qat consumption to be directly related to malnourishment in Yemen, not only because it inhibits the body's ability to absorb nutrients, but also because it is given precedence over food in the spending of many Yemeni families' income.

Correspondingly, Yemeni Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation Dr. Mansour Al-Howshabi stressed the importance of the agricultural sector in achieving food security in Yemen.

He said this during a joint event between the Ministry and FAO organized on the occasion of World Food Day last Thursday 16 October.

“[We are] planning to launch an emergency response to feed some 600,000 of the most poor and food-insecure Yemenis,” the WFP office in Yemen said, adding that pregnant and lactating women would be specifically targeted to prevent malnutrition from being perpetuated from mother to child, especially since exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life has been proven to be an excellent source of nutrition and protection against illnesses.