WFP: Food insecurity has reached alarming levels in Yemen [Archives:2007/1034/Local News]

March 19 2007

SANA'A, 15 March ) Food insecurity has reached crisis proportions in Yemen and over 50 per cent of children under five are malnourished, World Food Program Representative Mohamed El-Kouhene said on Wednesday at the signing ceremony of the launch of a new Country Programme for the period 2007-2011. One million Yemenis will benefit from the new five-year programme to help reduce poverty, cut malnutrition and narrow the gender gap in education. The WFP has provided $400 million of food aid to Yemen since 1967, when the country was divided into the Yemen Arab Republic and the South People's Democratic Republic of Yemen.

“The WFP, in partnership with the Yemeni government and other UN agencies, will do its utmost effort to reduce these levels.” Said El-Kouhene. Planning and International Cooperation Minister Abdulkarim Al-Arhabi signed the agreement for the Yemeni government confirming the government's commitment to provide all necessary facilities to enable the programme to achieve its goals and co-operating with the WFP's desire to expand its activities in Yemen. Scarce natural resources, combined with one of the highest population growth rates in the world, have contributed to Yemen's economic difficulties. Over 40 per cent of the population of some 21 million live on less than $2 per day and over 70 per cent live in rural areas, where stagnating agricultural production has led to severe poverty and high unemployment.

At a cost of US$48 million, the programme will focus on expanding girls' access to education and improving the health and nutritional status of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women, and patients suffering from tuberculosis and leprosy. Another of WFP's activities under the project will be the provision of food rations as an incentive to encourage families to enrol their children, especially girls, in primary schools. It will also be expanded to include girls in secondary education. Gender inequality in education is a problem especially evident in primary schools where the enrolment rate for girls is 61 per cent compared to 86 per cent for boys. The illiteracy rate for girls over 15 has peaked at 71.5 per cent. “The education of girls is as essential for Yemen's future as it is for boys. They make up at least half of the active members of society and will ensure that the country can move forward,” Mr. El-Kouhene said.

“Donors have been supportive of the WFP's operations in Yemen,” Mr. El-Kouhene said. “With a new project focusing exclusively on women and girls, adequate resources would help us work with the government to make a real change in the lives of hundreds of thousands of Yemenis.”