WFP to launch major response to assist Yemenis affected by high food prices [Archives:2008/1193/Local News]

September 25 2008

SANA'A, Sept 23- The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is launching an emergency response operation to provide food to poor Yemeni households struggling to survive the global food crisis. The decision follows a recent WFP food security assessment which warned of a sharp decline in food security among Yemenis due to high food prices

Yemen is one of the countries most hard hit by high food prices. In one year, the price of wheat, the main staple of the Yemeni diet, jumped from US$350 to US$650 per 1,000 kg. The costs of other basic commodities have also increased, though less drastically. In recent months, prices have decreased slightly, though they are still out of reach for many.

The assessment revealed that as a result of the crisis, poor Yemeni families are forced to spend over 65 percent of their household budget on meeting daily food needs, usually at the expense of education and health expenditures. They are also eating less and lower quality food.

The Italian government has contributed Euro 5 million to launch the operation – money that will be used to help feed over one million hungry individuals in the country.

“The Italian donation is very timely and much-needed. It will allow us to continue feeding thousands of vulnerable families – including refugees, displaced persons, school girls and pregnant and lactating women – additionally it will extend support to those segments of the population who have been most affected by the skyrocketing food prices,” said Mohamed El-Kouhene, WFP Representative in Yemen.

A large proportion of the Italian contribution – Euro 2 million – will go towards the new emergency operation to feed these individuals most affected by high prices. The remaining funds will be channelled to support WFP's regular development activities (promoting nutrition and girls' access to education in Yemen) as well as the agency's relief programmes feeding vulnerable Somali refugees and those families affected by the war in Sa'ada.

The Ambassador of Italy to Yemen, H.E. Mr. Mario Boffo, added “the Italian government is very pleased to make this donation to Yemen and to support WFP in its swift response to the high food prices in the country. The contribution is yet another illustration of the excellent level of cooperation with WFP.”

The Italian donation is the second largest direct contribution to WFP's new operation to help overcome the high food price crisis in Yemen. H.E. Minister Al-Arhabi of Yemen expressed his “appreciation for this donation and other contributions made to WFP, as well as to the agency for mobilizing additional resources and for joining the government in its efforts to combat food insecurity in Yemen.”

In addition to the Italian donation, last month the government of Germany provided Euro 10 million to WFP to address food security and nutrition in Yemen through the emergency operation.

“This new operation, along with ongoing development and humanitarian relief activities in the country, will raise WFP's portfolio to above US$ 120 million, providing food assistance to over 1.5 million people – an unprecedented level of support to vulnerable families in Yemen,” said El-Kouhene.

WFP Yemen is implementing a US$76.2 million five-year country programme to assist approximately 1 million Yemenis.

The programme aims to increase girls' access to education and improve the health of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women and tuberculosis and leprosy patients. The agency also provides humanitarian assistance to 77,000 persons affected by the war in Sa'ada governorate as well as food to 43,500 vulnerable Somali refugees fleeing conflict in their country.