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Food Assistance In Yemen: It doesn't get any harder than this

Story by World Food Programme December 10th, 2015

Destruction and Despair

A photo reportage by Ammar Bamatraf
Narrative by Gioacchino Gargano

If you google the etymology of the name Yemen, you get two possible interpretations: the first, “yamin” means “on the right side” while the second, “yumn” can be translated as “felicity/happiness.”

But the photos you‘re about to see are so far away from these two concepts that you will struggle to remember them by the time you reach the bottom of this article.

This photo reportage depicts a country that has lost hope, beset by a civil war that is worsening the already extremely high levels of food insecurity and poverty.

The Yemeni people are on the edge of famine and WFP is doing all it can to reach those in need.

Yemen, Aden – Dar Sa’ad District, 30 November 2015. Photo:WFP/Ammar Bamatraf

Walking through the streets of what is left of Dar Sa’ad District in the city of Aden, one of the country’s most important ports, it is as if the dormant volcano on which this ancient city lies came alive to spew destruction and desolation.

Among the many hardships Yemenis have to deal with, the increasing shortage of fuel is one of the worst.

To date, WFP-chartered ships have imported more than 4 million litres of fuel to Yemen allocated to more than 60 aid organizations in Aden, Sana’a and Hodeidah.

Since May 2015, nearly 2.5 million litres of fuel were allocated by the Logistics Cluster to more than 60 organizations.

Aden – Dar Sa’ad District: buildings destroyed due to war and shells. Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf

Let the data speak

yemen Population: 25.9 million
Internally displaced: 2.3 million
Food insecure estimated: 14.4 million
Severely food insecure estimated: 7.6 million
People reached with food assistance in October: 2.8 million

One step away from famine

When we arrived in Al Buraiqa, where 75 families who escaped burgeoning war in Al Waziya sought refuge, we interviewed Mohammed, who asked us to share his plea:

“I appeal to all people of good will. Look at these displaced people… they are your brothers from Yemen … You must look at them and consider them. Help them with anything, food, clothes and mattresses. People here have nothing. They don’t even have anything to sleep on. They sleep on the ground”

Yemen’s already very fragile food security is deteriorating fast: ten out of Yemen’s 22 Governorates are classified as facing food insecurity at ‘emergency’ level – one step below famine.


Yemeni Internally Displaced People (IDPs) line up to receive WFP food assistance. Photo:WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
A child sitting on the water kegs, ready to fill them with water.  Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
A girl walking with water bottle in the street of  Alburaiqa. Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf

trying to reach millions

Ammar, our photographer, visited the WFP warehouse in Al Mansoura, where he captured the loading of WFP food destined to the Abyan Governorate, east of Aden.

Early the following morning, Ammar jumped in the car and followed the food route:

The road was full of mines,” he said. “It has witnessed the most dramatic fighting since the beginning of the war.

Despite colossal challenges, WFP reached 1 million people on average every month since the conflict started in April. In October our operations were scaled up and reached more than 2.8 million people.

However, fighting, damage to infrastructure and insecurity are major impediments to humanitarian operations.

Matthew Hollingworth, WFP Deputy Regional Director, appealed to the international community to support WFP in its efforts to help the people of Yemen:
“Clearly Yemen is one of the hardest places in the world today to work, massive security concerns, escalation in the fighting and violence across the country.
We are doing well; we are improving our reach and getting to more people every month, but clearly with half of the country now just one step away from famine, we need the international community to really come behind us, and support us, particularly over the next few months.”
Workers carry WFP food bags from a storehouse in Al Mansoura in the southern governorate of Aden. Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf
Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf

If you want to know more about WFP operations in Yemen please visit our emergency page

Two Yemenis pick up their ration food at the distribution center in a village in the Abyan governorate. Photo: WFP/Ammar Bamatraf