US $127 million from World Bank to shore up food security and rural livelihoods in Yemen

WFP

Washington DC/New York/ Rome – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have welcomed US$127 million in support, provided by the World Bank, for an interagency project to fight the spread of extreme hunger in Yemen. The project will provide rural families with opportunities to build sustainable household food security.

Humanitarian needs in Yemen continue to rise. The country is reeling from the impacts of over six years of incessant conflict and economic disruptions compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, floods and desert locusts.

Currently, 16.2 million Yemenis face crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) according to the latest Integrated Food Security Classification analysis. This includes approximately 47,000 people experiencing catastrophic (IPC Phase 5) levels of food insecurity -famine like conditions.

The World Bank grant will focus on delivering immediate support to vulnerable households through cash-for-work opportunities and nutrition support for mothers and children. The project will also provide targeted livelihoods support aimed at boosting agricultural production in the short term, while enhancing agriculture’s contributions to food security and economic activity over the longer term and building capacity for food security management.

“Food insecurity is one of the most pressing human development challenges facing Yemen. Within the broader context of the ongoing conflict and economic crisis, the combination of a high household dependence on food imports, high food prices, and significantly reduced income are having a devastating impact on people’s lives,” said Tania Meyer, World Bank Country Manager for Yemen. “The World Bank is adopting a multi-sectoral approach to food insecurity. The new Food Security Response and Resilience project is a key piece of this operational package, integrating immediate support to households with medium term interventions aimed at building resilience to future shocks”.

The grants were made possible by generous contributions from the Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) (US$100 million) and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) (US$27 million).

Linked-up action on multiple fronts

Approximately US$61 million will support FAO-led activities aimed at increasing production of crop, livestock and fish products, including backyard/garden production; promote climate-smart agriculture; strengthen local-level agrifood systems; and establish national-level agricultural value chains.

“For millions of Yemeni families, backyard food production represents a firewall between them and the most severe manifestations of hunger. So we must boost local food production right now to prevent high acute food insecurity from spreading. But we must also work on building up agriculture as a source of food and jobs that can endure over the longer term – this is why this multi-year funding from the Bank is so important,” said FAO country representative Hussein Gadain.

UNDP will receive US$23.8 million to lead a range of climate change adaptation measures in rural Yemen that will provide immediate access to food by creating temporary employment opportunities through a cash-for-work (CFW) programme. Specifically, the funding will allow for restoring damaged public and collective productive assets, including those affected by the 2020 floods.

“This project is vital in helping Yemenis overcome compounding crises – including the fact that food crisis exists because Yemenis simply cannot afford their food, not because the food is unavailable,” says UNDP’s Resident Representative, Auke Lootsma. “While the project addresses the critical and acute food crisis by putting needed money in people’s pockets to purchase food, it also works to begin to rebuild lost community assets that have either been destroyed or badly damaged in the conflict or in the recent devastating floods.” He adds, “Rebuilding vital infrastructure is a critical starting point for longer-term recovery in Yemen.”

WFP will use US$42.2 million in bank support to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable rural households, focusing on the core role women play in improving food security. The project will address immediate nutrition needs of women and children focused in areas with the highest rates of food insecurity, delivering specialized nutrition products to both treat and prevent malnutrition among this vulnerable group. Meanwhile, WFP will promote women’s entrepreneurship activities by providing both skills development opportunities and start up grants focused on agriculture and food production.

“Evidence shows that when women and girls have better access to information, resources and services, the result is improved decision-making and economic opportunities that leads to increased food security and nutrition for herself, her family, and her community” said WFP Country Director for Yemen, Laurent Bukera. “Promoting the equal and meaningful participation of women will contribute to ensuring a food secure future for Yemen.”

Agriculture’s potential

Agriculture remains Yemen’s most important economic sector but has been severely damaged by the effects of the conflict and disease, which have limited livelihood opportunities.

The country is largely dependent upon commercial imports to satisfy its domestic consumption requirements for wheat, the main staple, while food assistance is a main food source for over one-third of families.

Currently the country’s agricultural sector only supplies around 15 to 20 percent of its food needs due to limited agricultural land and water resources and poor agricultural practices compounded years of war, high fuel prices, and water scarcity.

The World Bank has supported Yemen’s development for more than four decades, cooperating with national and local actors and establishing operational partnerships with key United Nations agencies. These include FAO, the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UNDP, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), WFP and the World Health Organization (WHO).

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