Yemen on the brink of a famine

10 million people in Yemen facing acute shortage of food

The UN says that Yemen is once more on the brink of famine. According to the World Food Programme, around 10 million people face an acute shortage of food and that the people are suffering “unimaginable” miseries. Even before the start of war- Yemen was the poorest country in Arab world. But the ongoing war has brought devastation, hunger and deaths on unprecedented level.  
Moreover, the country, battered by over five years of war, is ill-prepared to face the coronavirus pandemic. While the official tally says there are around 1,300 cases, experts warn the real number may be over a million, as Yemen’s fragile health infrastructure is in no shape to give accurate data. If hunger and disease were not enough, Yemenis live in the constant shadow of death either from the skies, in the shape of Saudi-led bombardment of Houthi positions, or fighting on the ground between multiple factions.

Today twenty million Yemenis – some 70 per cent of the population – are food insecure, marking a 13 per cent increase from last year”, WFP Spokesperson Herve Verhoosel told reporters at a regular press briefing in Geneva. “Nearly 10 million of them are on the brink of a famine.”WFP is scaling up this year to reach 12 million people each month; a 50 per cent increase over its 2018 targets, including eight million with food rations; 2.4 with commodity vouchers and, eventually, 1.6 million with cash assistance.

In Yemen, fears of famine have resurfaced as UN humanitarians also warned on Friday that 360,000 severely malnourished children could die unless they continue to get treatment and aid is stepped up. In an urgent appeal for funding, the World Food Programme (WFP) said that it needs $200 million per month to maintain assistance in the war-torn country.
“If we wait for famine to be declared, it will already be too late as people will already be dying”, it said in a statement.

WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in Geneva that the dire economic situation in Yemen caused by the conflict had led to reduced imports and soaring food prices in a country that imports almost everything it needs.

“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns and the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,” she said. “Those people cannot go to find work, they have to stay home, and they cannot feed themselves and their families.”

Day to day, vulnerable Yemeni families have been forced to reduce the number and quality of meals that they eat.
Breakfast “is no longer beans and bread but bread only, dinner is rice only instead of rice and vegetables”, Ms. Byrs said, noting that some 20 million people are food insecure nationally, with 13 million receiving food aid.
Nationwide, the conflict has displaced more than 3.65 million people and killed thousands.
Fewer than one in two health facilities are fully functioning and nearly half of all children have been left stunted by malnutrition, requiring treatment, according to WFP.
In total, two million children require treatment for acute malnutrition “of which around 360,000 are at risk of dying without treatment”, the agency said.
In the immediate future, the international community cannot let Yemen’s vulnerable people starve to death. The military conflict must end in Yemen. All the internal and external players must stop fighting and negotiate a solution to the conflict. The continued war will bring more miseries and sufferings for the people of Yemen. World powers must play their role to end this bloody war. This war has destroyed Yemen. Instead of destruction, famine, poverty and death, Yemen needs schools, hospitals, food and water.                                      The Editor

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