Yemen on ‘brink of major food crisis,’ children most at risk

Some 24 million Yemeni people, which is 80% of the entire population, require some form of assistance or protection.
Thursday 23/07/2020
A doctor measures height of a malnourished boy at a hospital in Aslam district of Hajjah province, Yemen.  (Reuters)
A doctor measures height of a malnourished boy at a hospital in Aslam district of Hajjah province, Yemen. (Reuters)

Sana’a / Cairo- Fear of famine in Yemen is resurfacing, the United Nations says. A UN report Wednesday said Yemen was returning to “alarming” levels of food insecurity.

Coronavirus restrictions, reduced remittances, locusts, floods and significant underfunding of this year’s aid response have compounded an already dire hunger situation after five years of war.

“Yemen is again on the brink of a major food security crisis. … Unless we receive the funding we need now, we won’t be able to do the same this time,” said Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

Resurgent violence in recent weeks between warring parties, despite UN peace efforts, is also killing and injuring civilians.

Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen. UN warnings in late 2018 of impending famine prompted an aid ramp-up after which the World Food Programme fed up to 13 million a month.

“Now all those improvements are at risk,” World Food Program spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs said.

Despite mounting economic and health pressures on Yemen, the world’s largest aid response is scaling back due to insufficient funding.

Nutrition services for 2.5 million children could cease by the end of August. The WFP already in April halved food aid to alternate months in north Yemen.

“Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts,” said Laurent Bukera, the WFP director for Yemen. “We must act now. In 2019, thanks to a massive scale-up, WFP and partners were able to reverse the deterioration in the worst hit areas of Yemen.”

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore the internationally-recognised Yemeni government ousted from power in the capital Sana’a by the Iran-backed Houthis.

The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 3 million people internally displaced and two-thirds of the population reliant on food assistance for survival.

The number of malnourished under-fives could rise by 20% to 2.4 million by year end on funding shortfalls, UNICEF has said.

Some 24 million Yemeni people, which is 80% of the country’s entire population, require some form of assistance or protection, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA. And 75% of UN programs for the country, covering essentially every sector, from food to health care and nutrition, have already shut their doors or reduced operations.

According to the UN’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis, 40% of south Yemen will face high levels of acute food insecurity in July-December, up from 25% in February-April.