Written By: Mohammed Ali Kalfood
Article Date: Sep 20, 2012 - 7:20:19 PM
Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS) reported that Yemeni populations with the greatest current vulnerability to acute food insecurity include the households displaced by conflict in southern Yemen, the households hosting recently displaced households in southern Yemen, and households remaining in or returning to areas affected by conflict in southern Yemen.
Thousands of Yemenis in western parts of Yemen resorted to begging in order to survive. in the photoa vulnerable woman extends hand begging.
Another area of concern would be the lowland coastal plains in the governorates along the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden where high levels of acute malnutrition and below average seasonal rainfall have been reported. These areas are contained in Taiz, Hodeida, Hajja, Aden, Lahj, and Abyan Governorates. A recent Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutrition survey by the Government of Yemen and the nutrition cluster in the lowlands of Lahj estimated a global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate of 23 percent.
FEWS NET is trying locate a full report on these results that includes the confidence intervals for the findings and the data quality report. The relationship between food insecurity, poor health outcomes, and chronic water access issues in the coastal plains and lowlands of Yemen remains largely unexplored, limiting the ability of humanitarian actors to know if food access is a key determinant of acute malnutrition.
It is also unclear if pastoralists are at risk of acute food insecurity. (August 2012) For agriculture-dependent rural populations, the lean season ends in April or May. The start of the rainy season in April and May was near average according to satellite estimates. In the highlands, early rains were even above average in some areas. Lowland, inland areas along the Red Sea coast, while having a normal timing of rains, may have had below average total rainfall.
While rains continued across much of the western half of the country in late June and into July, the intensity decreased as would be seasonally expected. However, in last ten days of July and the first two ten day periods in August, rains were above seasonally expected, including on the coastal plains of both the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. Despite some recovery of annual rainfall totals, 2012 rainfall totals remain below average in Aden, Lahj, Taiz, Hodeida, Shabwah, Hadramat, Al Muharah, Al Jawf, Marib, and Ad Dali Governorates.
Rainfall has also, according to satellite estimates, been marginally below average for the year in Sana’a Governorate. Below average rainfall may have negative impacts on agricultural productivity. Land preparation and planting should have already been completed for the primary sorghum harvest, which is expected to start in the middle of September.
The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) indicates that vegetation conditions are above average in eastern areas of the highlands, but they are below average in the coastal plains and the western parts of the highlands. (August 2012) Yemen imports over 90 percent of its foodstuffs, and the majority of the population is market dependent. Food access is, therefore, sensitive to fluctuations in global food prices. Recent revisions in estimates for the U.S. 2012 maize crop and the Russian 2012 wheat harvest have increased some international commodity prices.
While production estimates for the Black Sea wheat exporters—Russia, Ukriane, and Kazakhstan—were recently revised down, the impact of the lower production this year on export prices may be less than generally expected. While wheat production in Russia will be well below last year, it will also likely remain well above the harvest from the severe drought of 2010. While wheat stocks in Russia are down due to brisk exports last year, there remains substantial stocks held outside of southern Russia’s main wheat-exporting areas.
Poverty in Yemen reached unprecedented levels
As stocks are sufficient, it is less likely that Russia would institute an export ban on wheat this year. Kazakhstan is expecting a slightly below average spring wheat harvest starting in August, but this will still be much larger than in 2010.
Kazakhstan still has large stocks of wheat from last year’s bumper harvest. Kazakhstan will need to export to free storage space for this year’s crop, and while prices may rise, Kazakhstan is unlikely to restrict exports and actually continues to have policies in place to encourage further grain export. Ukraine is the only of the three Black Sea wheat exporting countries expecting a drastic reduction from average in wheat production that may fall below the 2010 level.
However, like Kazakhstan, Ukraine still has a high level of stocks from last year’s harvest. As such, to make room storing the ongoing harvest, Ukraine will likely continue to export wheat.
In addition to the Black Sea exporters, South Asian wheat exporters remain in the international market. Pakistan had an above average, but not a bumper, wheat crop from the Rabi harvest in June, and both Pakistan and India are expected to continue exporting wheat this year despite dry northwestern monsoon conditions in some parts of India. Australia is also expecting a near average winter wheat harvest in October.
Overall, most of Yemen’s usual wheat suppliers will remain on the market and may not have dramatic rises in price due to strong stocks and continued production. As of June 2012, wheat and wheat flour prices on both wholesale and retail markets in Yemen had been relatively stable since January 2012. (July 2012) In June, most labor rates stayed near their levels of May.
In Hajja, labor rates declined, but it is unknown if this is a seasonally normal occurrence. There was a slight deterioration in terms of trade between casual labor wages and wheat flour, but it is unknown if this is a seasonally normal occurrence. In most markets, sales prices for sheep were relatively stable, but in Sana’a, the price of a head of sheep increased. In most markets, the terms of trade between sheep and wheat flour improved slightly for households that need to sell sheep to buy flour. This may be caused by increasing demand for livestock during Ramadan. (July 2012) In early June, the World Food Program (WFP) released the complete report on its Comprehensive Food Security Survey (CFSS), based on survey data from November 2011.
The CFSS found an 80 percent increase in the number of households with “poor” food consumption scores (FCS) compared to the previous CFSS from 2009. The CFSS also found a nationwide gross acute malnutrition (GAM) rate for children under the age of five of 13 percent. These rates are broadly similar to previous nutrition surveys (WHO).
Households reported using a variety of coping strategies including an increasing percentage of households buying food on credit. However, the governorates of Yemen with the highest GAM rates were not the same as those with the highest percentage of or the largest increases in households with “poor” FCSs.
The link between “poor” food consumption scores and acute malnutrition is weak. Unusual rates of acute malnutrition tend to be concentrated in relatively poor areas of the country. In these areas, poor households may experience chronic problems securing enough water for household use and the quality of water suitable for consumption and sanitation.
In addition to relatively poor water access, the landholdings of the poor are incredibly limited and are primarily outside of the qat-growing areas. Qat provides those growing it with a nearly year-round source of cash income, but this tends to be in irrigated areas of the highlands.
In the poorer, lower elevations, sharecropping or laboring for better off landowners are the main sources of food and income with very few alternatives for rural households.
These limited economic opportunities, and possible changes in access to or quality of water or access to basic health care may be key factors in understanding the causal path of acute malnutrition. (June 2012) In early June, the Yemeni government forces (YAF) recaptured Zinjibar and Ja’ar in Abyan Governorate from Ansar al-Sharia. In southern Yemen, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that over 237,000 have been displaced.
Nationwide, around half a million people are estimated to be internally displaced persons (IDPs). Some of the IDPs have started to return to Ja’ar and to other areas in Khanfar district of Abyan Governorate that are relatively safer.
A recent mission to the area estimated that in the safer areas between 20 and 30 percent of displaced households had returned. While certainly impacted by the conflict, trade is reported to be continuing in Abyan Governorate with some movement of goods across the lines of the conflict.
A recent assessment indicated that local police were not visible and that returns to Zinjibar town were very slow. (August 2012) While many households have been displaced or otherwise affected by the conflict in southern Yemen, the scale of humanitarian assistance has substantially increased.
Food insecurity increased in most parts of Yemen, particularly in Tihama region where this photo was taken by Yemen Observer photogropher
Some food distributions have been conducted by organizations which have continued access to areas of conflict, and the number of organizations known to work in Abyan Governorate is increasing. Also, non-traditional donors and charities may be playing important and possibly poorly recorded role in these areas.
The general increase in access to assistance should help mitigate some of the livelihood disruptions caused by the conflict.
In addition to recent registrations in Yemen by several well known international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), several organizations from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turkey have also started or resumed working in Abyan Governorate of Yemen. Most notably, the Khalifa Foundation from the UAE has started food distribution in southern Yemen. (August 2012)
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