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Funding Shortfall Adds To Misery Of Displaced Yemenis

A five-year conflict pitting government forces against rebels in northern Yemen has caused widespread suffering and displaced tens of thousands of people. Their plight worsened recently when WFP was forced to halve rations due to lack of funds.

By Ali Al-Hebshi and Maria Santamarina

SA’ADA -- Radia Hassan, a mother of nine, broke down crying as she described how she must now ask neighbours for food and money to help her feed her large family.

Hassan, her children, her three sisters and their children were fled the conflict in Sa’ada province’s Saqin district, leaving everything behind. The family now rents a small, two-bedroom house in the main provincial town of Sa’ada and relies entirely on WFP food assistance.

When her neighbours cannot help, Hassan has no other choice but to go to the market and beg shop owners and strangers for any help they can provide.

"Now that rations have been reduced, I have no other choice. I cannot find a job," she said tearfully.

Dire situation

Hassan is among more than 100,000 people suffering from a five-year conflict between government forces and rebels in northern Yemen. Most have fled their homes and rely on WFP food to survive in one of the world’s least developed countries. But in July, WFP was forced to halve their rations when funds for the programme began running out.

"The humanitarian situation in Sa'ada is dire and likely to deteriorate further,” said Giancarlo Cirri, WFP’s country director in Yemen. “WFP needs support to fulfil its mandate and meet the needs of families affected by the conflict."

The reduced rations have meant more hardship for 73-year-old Mohammed Salman, who fled the Dhahian area of the province after his only son was killed in a mosque bombing. Salman left behind his house and land. Now his large family, including 13 daughters, is squeezed into two tents donated by The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Mounting debt

Faced with reduced WFP rations, Salman began buying food supplies on credit. His debt is now over US$ 250. “I wish I were strong enough to work as a labourer so that I could feed my family, but at the age of 73 no one will hire me,” he said.

Instead, Salman may be forced to mortgage or sell his home at a fraction of the price it is worth. “If I die without the house, the girls will be left with nothing," he told WFP. 

He hopes WFP will be able to provide full rations soon, Salman said, so he can find a way to cover his debt.

Read more about WFP's funding shortfall and the latest Yemen news release.