U.N. cuts food rations in Yemen due to lack of funds

Source: Reuters

* WFP cuts food rations for 1 million in Yemen * Survey shows 1 in 3 Yemenis chronically hungry * Dire funding also hitting U.N. refugee agency * Poverty seen as one cause of militancy By Stephanie Nebehay GENEVA, Feb 5 (Reuters) – The United Nations food agency said on Friday a lack of funds had forced it to cut back rations for around one million people in Yemen, despite growing chronic hunger. The United Nations earlier warned in a Reuters interview that a lack of donor support was threatening life-saving programmes in Yemen while the West discusses how to help as part of its fight against terrorism. “We don’t physically have enough food to give everybody a full ration. That means we are reducing the rations to stretch it out and make it last as long as possible,” said Emilia Casella, spokeswoman of the World Food Programme (WFP). The WFP aims to feed 1 million people a month in the Arab world’s poorest country, where families are struggling to meet higher food prices, she told a news briefing. They include 250,000 people who have fled their homes during the five-year conflict in the north between government forces and al Houthi rebels, and Somali refugees and school children. Rations were cut in February to 1,700 kilo calories per person from 2,100 and may have to be reduced further if donors don’t provide funding, Casella said. The top United Nations aid official John Holmes warned on Thursday in an interview with Reuters that the humanitarian situation in Yemen was worsening, yet donors were shunning the country, thereby jeopardising life-saving programmes. [ID:nLDE61321D] The United Nations appealed for $177 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen during 2010. It is only 0.4 percent funded. “If we don’t get some money, the aid pipeline will run out,” he said. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Yemen’s government at a conference in London last week to push through reforms to tackle the root causes of poverty and instability that are fuelling militancy. [ID:nLDE60Q1SN] The latest food cuts come on the heels of a WFP survey that revealed that one out of every 3 Yemenis — or 7.5 million people — suffer chronic hunger, Casella also told Reuters. The WFP needs $30 million for the next six months to cover foods needs in Yemen, she said. As a “stop-gap” measure, it had used an internal loan of $4 million which has to be repaid. “If donor funds are not found in the next weeks it is likely it will lead to further ration reductions and even the possible suspension of a number of programmes by the end of June,” Casella said. The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday that a shortage of funds is hampering its ability to register people fleeing the fighting and could delay building a third refugee camp at Al Mazrak for displaced people from Saada. “We are facing a dramatic funding situation in Yemen and may be forced to scale down our operations for refugees and internally displaced people there if we do not receive fresh contributions very soon,” said spokeswoman Melissa Fleming. Conflict in Somalia continues to drive more Somali refugees towards Yemen, which hosts 170,000 refugees in all, she added. (Editing by Jonathan Lynn and Philippa Fletcher)
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