Sawt Al-Amal (Voice of Hope) – Manal Amin
“There is no food security without development, and there is no development without scientific and applied research. Our country is rich in various natural resources such as agriculture, fish and extractive industries (oil and various minerals).” This is what the head of the Technical Secretariat for Food Security in Aden, Dr. Khader Balem Atroosh, confirmed in a press interview with Sawt Al–Amal newspaper (Voice of Hope) to present everything related to the general situation of food security in Yemen.
– Would you describe for us the general situation of food security in Yemen, especially at this stage?
Food insecurity in Yemen has long been a chronic problem. However, it has further deteriorated to alarming levels over the past few years as armed conflict remained the major driver of this situation. The prolonged armed conflict and other associated shocks have led to an increase in acute food insecurity across the country.
According to the Integrated Phase Description of Acute Food Insecurity until the end of June 2021, 16.2 million people or 54% of the population, of whom about 5 million are on the brink of famine and about 50,000 people have already faced famine-like conditions, while the number of people in need of assistance is 20.7 million.
– What is the significance of the development process in our country for achieving food security?
Development in our country has not reached the level that enables to achieve food security. Change should be made for all development sectors, especially value-added ones that result in an increase in production and thus bridge the food gap, reduce imports and achieve food self-sufficiency, which in turn leads to achieving food security.
– How can natural resources be exploited in a way that alleviate problems of food insecurity that affects more than half of the population in Yemen, according to international reports?
There is no food security without development, and there is no development without scientific and applied research. Our country is rich in various natural resources such as agriculture, fish and extractive industries (oil and various minerals). Furthermore, Yemen owns ports which are a point of contact with the outside world and help develop foreign trade and improve the trade balance. When properly utilized according to scientific foundations, the ports make Yemen one of the richest countries in the world.
– Does the distribution of food aid contribute to alleviating the problem of food insecurity in Yemen?
Yes, in spite of the lack of commitment by some donor countries to provide food aid. According to the World Food Program (WFP) report, food aid targeted 11.9 million people, of whom 8.4 million people are provided with food aid, 2.3 million people with food vouchers and 1.2 million people with cash transfers.
– What are the key drivers of food insecurity?
The cumulative shocks, the increase of different food and livelihood coping strategies, the extremely low economic activities, the lack of public services and the high food prices, have led significant losses in income and in severe cases loss in livelihoods. Furthermore, the Corona pandemic (Covid 19) has posed a great threat to the life and stability of the population in most of the Yemeni regions. As of June 6, 2021, the total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 was 6,787 with 1,329 associated deaths and 3,571 recoveries. The effects of COVID-19 in Yemen and abroad have led to a loss of income and a sharp drop in remittances, resulting in decreased purchasing power and increased food expenditures. On April 2021, the average monthly cost of the Survival Minimum Expenditure Basket (SMEB) in Yemen was 54,453 riyals, equivalent to US$ 77, which is unaffordable for many families. All of the above have resulted in an over-reliance on humanitarian food assistance.
The Yemeni economy has suffered a serious deterioration over the years. Since December 2019, currency depreciation has grown by 36.2%, drop in remittances has declined, at least, by 20%, while fuel exports have also declined by 18%. Public sector workers have not received their salaries and more than 600,000 people have lost their jobs. The conflict also caused severe damage to the country’s economic infrastructure, causing the Gross domestic product (GDP) to contract by more than 50% for the period (2014-2020).
– What is your assessment of the efforts exerted by the Yemeni government in facing food insecurity?
In an attempt to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, the Yemeni government, with the help of partners, friends, and international organizations, have taken a series of governmental measures that seek to improve the state of food security, most notably:
– Exerting efforts to stop the conflict, which had the greatest impact in destroying infrastructure and reducing livelihoods and thus increasing the number of food uninsured.
– Confronting the Corona virus by taking preventive measures and opening 24 isolation centres distributed in different governorates. On April 20, the vaccination process against Corona was launched. As of June 10, the number of vaccinated people reached 227,446 citizens.
– Mobilizing support and humanitarian aid with a broad vision that transcends the lines of contact and conflict, in order to address food insecurity and resilience to face the fragility of livelihoods.
– Applying a preferential exchange rate to importers of basic food commodities.
– Establishing a food security information system with the support of the European Union, and appointing a technical secretariat for food security and coordination units in the governorates that monitor and analyze food security information and submit it to decision authorities.
– Supporting farmers with customs exemptions for agricultural inputs, and encouraging and supporting investors in the food industry sector.
– Supporting the health sector and encouraging investors in the health sector.
What are your suggestions to combat food insecurity?
From our experience in FSTS we recommend the following:
– Taking possible measures to limit the currency deterioration, which is the main reason for the rise in food commodities prices.
– Encouraging traders to import food commodities and providing them with the necessary facilities by the state.
– Determining the prices of food commodities according to cost with a profit margin, and imposing strict control over market prices.
– Compelling all food traders to adhere to publicizing the prices of food commodities at the front of their stores and to take legal measures against violators.
– State establishing of grain silos in the port of Aden to maintain strategic wheat reserves to weather times of crisis and food supply disruptions.
– State support of agricultural production, especially cash crops, to increase agricultural exports, as well as local grain crops and to bring high-productivity varieties to reduce the cost of the local product.
– State support of fish production and encouragement of fish industries and exports.
– Increasing the monthly allocations for the governorates of domestic gas, which will lead to price stability and reduce manipulation.
– Strengthening the role of the health sector in managing the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce human and material losses.
70% affirm that the continuation of the conflict is one of the most important challenges facing Yemen in achieving food security
The results of a public opinion poll carried out by the Media Department of the Yemen Info…