UN World Food Program Fundraising Failures Lead To Food Ration Slashes in Yemen

As of June 27th, 2022 the United Nation’s World Food Program (WFP) was forced to further cut food rations to Yemen due to previously predicted funding gaps. Only one-quarter of the nearly $2 billion needed to fund Yemeni nutritional support was provided by international donors. The failure to hit the fundraising goal, combined with supply chain issues caused by the Russia-Ukraine crisis and general inflation ramifications, has caused the Yemen humanitarian crisis to deteriorate exponentially. Prior to the funding gap, the WFP fed around 13 million people per month in Yemen. In January, the WFP reduced rations in Yemen for 8 million people and continuously warned of future rations cuts in May.

The WFP announced their fundraising failure via Twitter: “We are now being driven to scale back that support for 5 million of those people to less than 50% of the daily requirement, and for the other 8 million to around 25% of the daily requirement,” and “Resilience and livelihood activities, and school feeding and nutrition programs, will cease for 4 million people, leaving assistance available for only 1.8 million people.” In a fundraising event, WFP Executive Director David Beasley stated that: “We are looking at a seismic hunger crisis if we do not step up now. Unless we receive immediate funds, hungry people will lose assistance right at the time they need it most,” and “funding for Yemen has never reached this point. We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving.”

A lack of clean drinking water and dependable food supplies are two of the biggest humanitarian issues that Yemeni civilians face. These issues have been weaponized by all parties involved, including United Arab Emirates (UAE) forces, Saudi Arabia forces, and the Houthi insurgency. Infrastructure that provides clean drinking water has been destroyed by fighting and bombings, and associated water stress established opportunities for armed groups to weaken civilian populations to achieve military and political gains. The inability to irrigate arable land has left Yemeni civilians dependent on imported food. Additionally, the lack of accessible groundwater has lead to low crop yields, thereby decimating Yemen’s agricultural sector.

The WFP funding gap is causing immediate harm on the ground in Yemen. However, policymakers must now look to the future of humanitarian crises in Yemen. The cessation of bombings and attacks via a long-lasting ceasefire is the only solution that will help prevent any further degradation of water and agricultural commodities. Second, the U.S. should commit to a substantial foreign aid spending package that will deliver food products to Yemen, and help re-establish critical water infrastructure. Currently, only $814 million of the $38 billion the U.S. earmarks for foreign aid goes to Yemen. The U.S. could easily fill the WFP funding gap for 2022, while the WFP revitalizes its fundraising mechanisms. Furthermore, the Jeddah Communique recently released by the U.S. and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia casts a dark shadow on the prospects of Yemen. While both sides reaffirmed their strong support for a United Nations (UN) brokered truce in Yemen, neither made promises to end violence on the ground. Saudi-sponsored bombings of Yemen have directly contributed to the extensive humanitarian crisis. 

If the U.S. believes that the strategic oil and military partnership with Saudi Arabia is more important than solving the on-the-ground violence in Yemen, then the least that the Biden administration could do is fill the WFP funding gap. Furthermore, WFP funding mechanisms must change. Currently, governments are the main source of funding for the WFP, and the WFP “receives no dues or portions of the UN assessed contributions.” The WFP relies on individual contributions, corporate sponsorships, and voluntary government giving. Overall, the funding structure of the WFP is unsustainable, given the fleeting and tenuous nature of voluntary donations. The WFP should therefore petition to draw funding from the required UN contribution of each member state.