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Cablegate: Yemen's Starving Children

R 291316Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANAA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0704

UNCLAS SANAA 001918


FOR NEA/ARP:AMACDONALD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PGOV SOCI YM
SUBJECT: YEMEN'S STARVING CHILDREN

1. A National Symposium on Child Poverty held November 24-25
in Sana'a reported that half of Yemeni children under the age
of five are moderately to severely underweight. Infant
mortality in Yemen is ten times the U.S. rate, and according
to the World Food Program's (WFP) Jutta Neitzel, food
expenditures in Yemen are on par with Somalia and the world's
poorest nations. Traditional poverty measures, such as the
"dollars a day" calculation, significantly underestimate
child poverty, especially in traditional societies where
adult men often get the lion's share of scant resources. In
Yemen, rampant qat use among the poor drains even more
resources that would otherwise go to feed children. Fawzia
Noman, Deputy Minister for Girl's Education at the Ministry
of Education, said, "There must be awareness among the men
about the needs of women during pregnancy and after the
children are born. Our society has things that need to
change."

2. "Combating child poverty is the best possible allocation
of Yemen's resources," said Alberto Minujin, an expert on
social policy and children at the New School University. He
explained that the country must develop economically and
socially at the same time; it can't wait for economic growth
to implement vital social policies. ROYG programs like the
Social Fund for Development and the Social Welfare Fund,
which aim to reduce poverty, face limited funding and other
serious challenges; they have yet to demonstrate a
significant impact in shrinking poverty. UNICEF officials
hope that a study currently under way on child poverty will
help spur better policies. The WFP is set to launch a program
with the Ministry of Health in early 2009 to address the most
acute cases of early childhood malnutrition.

COMMENT
-------

3. Even the coalition of activists assembled by UNICEF to
tackle the problem of child poverty had trouble coming up
with policy-based solutions to the problem. Without a fierce
ROYG commitment to fighting poverty, unlikely given other
priorities, the future looks bleak for Yemen's hungry youth.
END COMMENT.


SECHE

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