Easing Hunger in Conflict-Torn Regions

The continued conflict in Yemen has forced more than 2 million Yemenis from their homes and has left 17 million people – more than half the population – struggling to eat. Poor infrastructure, coupled with ongoing violence, makes growing and distributing food unpredictable. Where food is available, it is unaffordable, with prices that have skyrocketed more than 40 percent. Malnutrition has always been a serious problem in Yemen but cases of severe acute malnutrition have spiked in the last three years. Currently, more than 2 million children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and face an increased risk of morbidity and death.

Hajjah governorate in northwestern Yemen is home to nearly half a million displaced people, and faces frequent airstrikes in its northern districts. A survey of residents showed that 95 percent need help getting food, but that only 20 percent received any kind of food assistance. Even before the conflict, more than half of the rural households did not have a market within their localities. Now, the destruction of road infrastructure has meant it’s difficult to transport food and has resulted in sporadic availability of food commodities. People simply need rapid access to food.

To the southeast, Sana’a governorate – home to the capital, the most populous city in Yemen – also faces consistently disputed border areas that make even counting the number of displaced people difficult. Daily airstrikes on military targets inside the capital make it hard for vulnerable families to access reasonably priced fuel and food. Most of the private businesses have been forced to shut down or reduce the workforce by more than half due to physical damage to premises, loss of capital, mounting debt and lack of electricity and fuel. This has led to loss of livelihood options for more than 50% of the population. For people in Sana’a governorate, where food is available but at highly inflated prices, people need assistance to engage in the market.

With funding from the UN World Food Program Relief International is delivering hundreds of metric tons of food to more than ten thousand vulnerable households in Hajjah governorate every month. The food baskets include basic food supplies like flour, pulses, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar. For those households with children under the age of two, RI is including malnutrition-preventing Plumpy Doz food supplement packets in the food baskets each month. More than 5 metric tons of Plumpy Doz is distributed to more than three thousand children under two every month.

In Sana’a governorate, there are functioning markets where people can buy food. Supporting these markets is very important to farmers, as these are the only avenue to sell their products. Therefore, with funding from the UN World Food Program, Relief International is distributing vouchers for basic food supplies to thousands of families in Sana’a governate every month.

The food vouchers help to stimulate the market and mean families are less likely to be faced with difficult decisions of skipping meals or severely reducing the nutritional quality of meals in order to pay for other basic needs like rent, fuel and education costs.