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This holiday feed a 'silent guest' from Yemen

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Italy WFP Yemen

In this Nov. 15, 2018 photo a woman feeds Asia Mohamad, a two-month old baby who weighs 2.2 pounds at a hospital in Hajjah, Yemen. (Marco Frattini/WFP via AP)

During the holidays we can’t ignore the starvation taking place in war-torn Yemen. The U.N. World Food Program says 20 million Yemenis are in desperate need of food aid.

We can do something about it like we did after World War II when Americans fed “silent guests” during the holidays.

The “silent guest” plan ran from Thanksgiving through Christmas of 1947-48 to collect donations for hungry Europeans. It was a nationwide program started by activist Iris Gabriel, who got all the governors to endorse her charitable idea.

At holiday meals families would set aside an extra plate at their table. They would donate the cost of feeding their “silent guest” to buy a CARE package of food that was sent to Europe.

Gabriel explained at the time, “It will be thanks with giving. … We hope that churches and other large groups will entertain as many silent guests as possible, that individuals may have dozens of silent guests at their table, knowing that they are feeding as many real persons in Europe.”

The “silent guest” plan led to thousands of CARE packages being sent overseas to feed the hungry. We have to remember how significant this was. In 1947 Europe was still reeling from the destruction caused by World War II. Drought that summer had taken its toll on food production.

Secretary of State George Marshall warned “food is the very basis of all reconstruction.” Europe would not recover without food first.

The American public could not stand idly by while people were suffering abroad. The “silent guest” was one way every American could help.

Today we can offer the same help to Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. Children are dying of malnutrition there because of a civil war between a Saudi Arabia-led coalition against the Houthi rebels. Save the Children estimates that 85,000 Yemeni children have starved to death since the fighting began.

What we take for granted, a basic meal, is something many Yemenis cannot even get.

The U.N. World Food Program and other relief agencies are hoping that a ceasefire announced Thursday allows them to gain safe access to everyone in need. Only a lasting peace treaty will end the humanitarian crisis. You can encourage President Trump and Congress to withdraw military support from the Saudi coalition and act only as a peacemaker and humanitarian.

Funding is desperately needed so WFP and others have enough resources to feed the hungry throughout Yemen. There are massive funding requirements to feed millions of Yemeni war victims. That is where the American public can help.

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Donating to feed a “silent guest” from Yemen at your holiday meals can give the World Food Program, Save the Children, UNICEF, Catholic Relief Services, Mercy Corps and other aid agencies the support they need.

When you are shopping you could buy someone in Yemen food by donating to one of the relief agencies. You could even make the donation in honor of a family member.

By feeding a “silent guest” from Yemen, you can save lives and also bring attention to this crisis. Yemenis are dying every day from starvation. We can do something about it and give Yemenis a holiday miracle: Food, peace and hope.

You can donate to help Yemen at:

Save the Children Yemen Fund:

World Food Program Yemen Fund:

Catholic Relief Services Yemen Fund:


Mercy Corps:

CARE Yemen Fund:

William Lambers is an author who partnered with the U.N. World Food Program on the book “Ending World Hunger.” His writings have been published by History News Network, The Hill, Newsweek and other outlets.

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