FOOD INSECURITY THREATENS FRAGILE PEACE IN YEMEN
Country teetering on edge of civil war coping with terrorism, hunger
Geographically, Yemen sits in a precarious position. The bridge between the oil empires of the Arabian Peninsula and the lawlessness of Somalia, the country has long been beleaguered by low economic growth and the ubiquitous threat of violence. The regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh fell victim to the Arab Spring early this year, which has rid the country of a despotic tyrant, but done little to bring order or the rule of law to this country which is in dire need of stability.
Unfortunately these goals may remain remote for some time to come. Jamal Benomar, who serves as United Nations Special Representative for Yemen spoke at UN headquarters this week about the dangerously high levels of food insecurity and malnutrition currently facing Yemen.
“Food insecurity and malnutrition levels are among the highest now in the world,” Mr. Benomar reported. “More than half the population are food insecure. There are nearly a million malnourished children.”
According to UN estimates, bridging the food insecurity gap in Yemen will mean an additional $340 million of aid; a sum hardly insurmountable but one that may prove difficult to secure given doubts about the ability of the government to manage itself and the fear that they money will be lost to terrorist attacks.
Mr Benomar acknowledged that attacks on oil and gas infrastructure were sapping some $250 million from the Yemeni treasury coffers each month. Still, he expressed his support for the Yemeni state and the use of national dialogue to overcome the challenges the country faces and ensure that no Yemeni citizen goes hungry.
“The only way to achieve lasting stability is to address also some of the underlying grievances,” he said. “So, to put it bluntly, if the national dialogue fails many expect that the entire transition and peace process will collapse. So it is clear the stakes are very high.”
Despite this bleak outlook, there are signs of progress in Yemen as the nation begins to rebuild itself after 33 years under the rule of Mr. Saleh. The threat of all out civil war is dissipating, and there is a growing shared interest in taking part in government throughout the Yemeni state.
“Something has changed,” Mr. Benomar noted. “Only a few months ago the country was on the verge of civil war. There was war and confrontation, violence, the main language was violence. Now the dominant language is national dialogue.”