The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) will drastically scale back its humanitarian aid to Yemen – where it provides emergency food assistance to more than 13 million people – citing funding shortfalls and soaring prices around the globe.
The WFP’s Yemen branch announced the decision on Sunday, stating that “critical funding gaps, global inflation and the knock-on effects of the war in Ukraine” have forced the agency to make significant cuts, which it said would have “devastating impact” on Yemen’s poorest.
“WFP touches the lives of more than half the people of Yemen with over 19 million transfers covering a variety of monthly activities. 13 million people, who are considered the most needy, receive emergency food assistance,” it said.
“We are now being driven to scale back that support for 5 million of those people to less than 50% of the daily requirement, and for the other 8 million to around 25% of the daily requirement.”
In addition to slashing food rations, the org said 4 million people would no longer have access to “resilience and livelihood activities,” as well as “school feeding and nutrition programs,” due to the cuts.
The WFP warned in May that it had raised only a quarter of its $2 billion funding target, and that it would have to cut back aid to Yemen if it didn’t meet its goals, having already reduced food assistance for 8 million Yemenis last January. Two weeks ago, the agency also cut aid to 1.7 million people in South Sudan due to a deficit of nearly $500 million.
Though Yemen’s hunger crisis is years in the making, the ongoing war in Ukraine has helped to drive up global food prices since late February, exacerbating problems in what was already the poorest nation in the Middle East.
A $40 billion aid package for Ukraine passed by US lawmakers in May devoted $5 billion to help alleviate food shortages abroad, but while military hardware has freely flowed to the government in Kiev, the aid project has encountered inexplicable delays. More than a month after the measure was signed into law, the Joe Biden administration still has yet to distribute any of the assistance, with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) simply pointing to “logistical challenges.”
Despite those setbacks, Biden announced yet another food initiative on Tuesday after meeting with leaders of the G7, stating that the US would offer $2.76 billion in humanitarian and economic aid to countries in need, $760 million of which will be allocated to “sustainable near-term food assistance.” It’s unclear what proportion of those funds, if any, will be sent to Yemen.
While unmentioned in the WFP statement, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is the result of an eight-year blockade and bombing campaign waged by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with heavy backing from Washington. Several members of Congress have cosponsored a War Powers bill that would require the White House to end military support for Riyadh, though similar measures have failed to pass for two years straight.