A few days ago there was an odd juxtaposition of Yemen-related news. On the one hand, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced that the United States would double its military assistance to Yemen to about $150 million next year. That same day, the UN Refugee Agency warned that it faced a huge funding shortfall for its Yemen related work, which includes taking care of 250,000 people made refugees and internally displaced, in part by fighting between the Yemeni military and rebel groups.
Well, today, the news become worse on the humanitarian front. The World Food Program said today that one in three people in Yemen go are in danger of going hungry. This, says the WFP makes Yemen, “one of the countries worst affected by hunger in the world, with 12 per cent of the population of some 23 million suffering from severe food insecurity, the United Nations reported today.” The problem, though, is that like the UN Refugee Agency, funds for WFP projects in Yemen are slow coming. Among other things, this has forced the WFP to cut its food rations below the 2,000 calorie threshold and curtail some school feeding programs. This is all for the lack of funding. How much funding? So far, the the UN has received only 0.4% of the funding that it requires to keep its humanitarian operations going in Yemen in 2010. The WFP says it needs $30 million to cover Yemen food needs for the next six months.
At what point does the focus on military aid to the exclusion of humanitarian relief become yet another example of our myopic focus on the former to the detriment to our long term goals in the region?