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Food price rises could worsen plight of hungry children

Children are subject to detention for commiting minor crimes.
(Muhammad al-Jabri/IRIN)

Hundreds of Yemeni children, representatives of UN agencies and ambassadors on Sunday marched together in Sana'a to highlight child hunger in Yemen. However, recent food price hikes are raising concerns that the country’s child hunger problems could get worse.

In the past two weeks food prices have risen sharply. The Ministry of Trade attributed the rise to international price rises. Yemen imports most of its basic food requirements, including 85 per cent of cereals.

Food prices went up a few weeks after the presidential and local council elections on 20 September 2006 when some traders began to hoard basic foodstuffs - wheat and flour - in the hope of avoiding rumoured additional turnover taxes it was said the government was planning to introduce.

On 11 May Trade Minister Yahya al-Mutawakel said his ministry was asking traders to adhere to fixed prices laid down by the ministry and that implementation of this policy would be monitored.

The Consumer Protection Association, a local NGO, said on 9 May that the new price hikes would affect consumers’ already low living standards. The opposition has recently criticized the government for failing to control prices.

''Malnutrition is not a question of the availability of food, it is how this food is used. A mother needs to learn about the best way to provide food for the child so as to optimise its impact on the child’s health.''

The march in Sana’a, timed to coincide with the global walk to end child hunger, and called 'Fight Hunger: Walk the World', took place in some 120 countries, and was organised by the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

Malnutrition

Mohammed el-Kouhene, WFP representative and country director in Yemen, told IRIN that 46 percent of children in Yemen are malnourished and the stunting rate is almost 53 percent. “The problem is very serious in Yemen,” he said.

The under five mortality rate in Yemen is 102 deaths per 1,000 live births. El-Kouhene said maternal and child mortality rates are partly associated with malnutrition.

UNICEF report

UNICEF's report on 'The State of the World's Children 2007' ranked Yemen 46th worst in a global survey of 190 countries, using under-five mortality rates as a critical indicator of the wellbeing of children.

Half of Yemen's 21 million inhabitants are children, while 43 percent of the population live below the US$2 per day poverty line, according to the United Nations Development Programme’s 2005 Human Development Report.

Education

Another issue highlighted by WFP in its anti-hunger campaign has been education. El-Kouhene said his organisation also works for the enhancement of education among children, especially girls, because education can help reduce child malnutrition.

“Malnutrition is not a question of the availability of food, it is how this food is used. A mother needs to learn about the best way to provide food for the child so as to optimise its impact on the child’s health,” he said.

The problem of hunger is acute throughout the country, especially in rural areas, where 75 percent of the population live.

In March, the WFP and Yemen’s government signed a country programme action plan for 2007-2011. The plan will help reduce poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition as well as narrowing the gender gap in education.

maj/ar/cb

see also
Zaid Abdullah, “I live from hand to mouth”


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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