Forgotten hunger in Yemen

Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, is enduring some of the world’s highest rates of malnutrition and food insecurity.

“The country is facing a major humanitarian situation, what I call a humanitarian crisis, which is often not well covered in the media,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the country’s humanitarian coordinator, told IRIN.

SLIDESHOW: Struggling to eat in Yemen

“People when they speak about Yemen, speak about the political situation, or maybe kidnapping, but they never realize that half of the Yemenis today, close to half, 10 million Yemenis, need food assistance.”

While there is food in the markets, rising poverty levels since the Arab Spring protests of 2011 mean millions simply do not have enough money to feed themselves. Moreover, less than 3 percent of the land is suitable for growing crops and even then much of this farmland is used for khat cultivation.

Around 22 percent of the 24 million population are estimated to be severely food insecure, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), and nearly a million children are acutely malnourished, says this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.

WFP runs a US$249 million emergency programme but needs another $80 million to complete planned operations in 2013.

Around five million people in Yemen receive WFP emergency food rations or cash transfers at 3,600 distribution points throughout the country.