Yemen’s Hunger Pains

After issuing warning after warning, the World Food Program has begun to cut aid rations to some 3 million Yemenis who depend on WFP food aid.   The WFP has only received about 30% of the $100 million it requested in emergency assistance for Yemen so it is reducing by half the amount of aid it distributes.  This means millions of Yemenis may go hungry. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government is poised to receive $150 million in bi-lateral military assistance from the United States.

At a conference this week, I had the opportunity to ask a leading regional counter-terrorism expert, Dr Mustafa Alani of the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center (GRC), his thoughts on the wisdom of the U.S.- Yemen deal.  To put it gently, he was unimpressed.

“You are not going to solve the terrorist problem in Yemen by killing terrorists,” he told me.  Citing evidence he has collected about under-employed young men being lured into terrorist groups, he insisted that investing in economic development in Yemen would do much more to stem the risk from terrorism than the mostly military approach adopted by the Pentagon. He hailed Oman’s assistance to Yemen as more farsighted. Oman, which has the lowest GDPs in the region, gives as much in economic development assistance to Yemen as the United States is proposing to give in military aid.

Between the massive international response to Haiti and the global economic crisis, resources for humanitarian aid across the board are becoming scarce.  Still Yemen goes to show how it always seems easier to score money for weapons, even as people go hungry. 

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