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Follow-Up Food Post

Below we discussed some of the security implications for the rising price of food in Yemen. Here, briefly (I hope) are a few things that show just how bad the situation is, and how much worse it is getting.

(By the way, when we discuss the security implications of poverty and hunger and the horrors of subsistence-level existence, please don’t think that we are looking at it only through that narrow prism. Obviously, the human cost is overwhelming. That’s a little overly-defensive knee-jerk parenthetical for you).

Today, the UN Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs released a report calling Yemen “the most food-insecure country in the Middle East.” Allow me to quote a few sentences.

…45 percent of Yemen’s population lived on less than US$2 a day, and 15 percent on less than $1 a day.

The report said Yemen was among 20 countries with 80 percent of the world’s stunted preschoolers.

According to WFP, 40 percent of Yemen’s population is malnourished.

High food prices have [affected] the entire country. But certain areas which are poorer than others were most affected. These include the governorates of Saada, Amran, Hajjah, Hudeidah, Lahj, alJawf, alBaidha, and Hadramaut
(readers can say some overlap between the names above and some posts below)

Yemen had the lowest per capita daily calorie consumption in the region. “In Yemen, the per capita daily calorie intake is 2,100, while in some Arab countries it is 3,200, as in Egypt, and 2,800, as in Sudan,” he said.

This, I think, is shocking, and illustrates something about Yemen. When it is thought about, which it isn’t nearly often enough, I think people tend to instinctively lump Yemen into “poor countries,” like say Egypt or maybe Mongolia. We reserve our ideas for hideously poor for places like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Sudan- the idea that Yemenis are less nourished than Sudanese is a shocking one*.

But it is true- Yemen is by many indicators on a level with Zimbabwe and other basket-cases, with anyindicator showing a wretched economy getting worse. Its poverty reduction strategies are now just a sad reminder of the days when oil seemed plentiful and the bombing of the Cole hadn’t thrown an unprepared nation into the central conflict of our time.

Years ago, Thomas Homer-Dixon wrote about the impact that poverty and a ruined environment had on global security. Since then, talking about how the distant poor affect the homeland has gone from something self-appointed realists could use to set up wooly-headed strawmen to an irrefutable face, almost a cliche. It is true that poverty isn’t the sole cause of terrorism, nor is it true that poverty leads one inexorably into violent jihadism– but the kind of desperate, bone-hungry poverty that Yemen is sliding further into sets up a dream scenario for terrorists: loose terrain and needy people. As hunger increases, insecurity follows. The less secure a nation is, the harder it is for the government and aid agencies to supply relief. This, then, is the splintering floorboard on which Salih and the West must try to save a disintegrating country.

*caveat- the report doesn’t make clear if they just mean the Arab part of the Sudan, which is considerably better off than the non-Arab parts.

(author’s note: ok, that wasn’t brief at all. We’re new to this blog thing, and the idea of “twittering” gives us screaming nightmares)


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