People's Stories Poverty

Urgent funding needed to avert Famine in four countries threatening 20 million people
by UN News, Famine Early Warning Systems Network
25 Apr 2017
#FacingFamine: Update on Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan and Northeast Nigeria - Report from the World Food Programme
Twenty million people in 4 countries - Northeast Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen - are at an elevated risk of famine, and a further 10 million are in crisis. Famine has already been declared in two counties in South Sudan, affecting 100,000 and with another 1 million on the brink of it.
Some of the most vulnerable people in the hardest-hit areas are already dying from starvation and disease in the four countries.
It is vital to act before famine is declared. In Somalia, half of the 260,000 people who perished between 2010 and 2012 had died before famine was declared in July 2011.
Prevention works. Malnutrition rates have declined where we or partners had sustained access and delivered food and nutritional supplies for children under age five.
Conflict is the principal driver of the crisis, sparking food insecurity, disrupting markets, limiting trade, destroying assets, leaving households without income or means to access food and displacing whole communities. Eight million people have been displaced as a result of these conflicts.
An associated problem is humanitarian access. A key trend is that the most vulnerable, displaced people are frequently the hardest to reach. For example, in March, Rapid Response teams from WFP-UNICEF could not reach an estimated 100,000 people in NE Nigeria, due to insecurity.
Humanitarian agencies need the international community to exert political pressure to secure full and sustained access to all those in need.
Funding Needs
In recent history, the world has not faced this number of multiple food security crises, with four countries facing famine all at once.
Famines can be averted. When they occur, they are an acknowledgement of collective failure by everyone: the United Nations, partners, donors and governments. It is much less costly to avert famine, than to respond to it.
Additionally, long-term development gains are lost.
Conflict and denial of access prevents aid from reaching many people in need, but a lack of funds also has a major impact on lives, forcing WFP and partners to ‘prioritize’, essentially deciding who among the most vulnerable receives limited aid, and who does not.
An immediate injection of funds is required to avert a catastrophe; otherwise, many thousands of people will die from hunger, livelihoods will be lost and communities destroyed.
* WFP Executive Summary:
22 February 2017 (UN News)
Urgent funding needed to avert Famine in four countries threatening 20 million people
Sounding the alarm on behalf of more than 20 million people in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and north-east Nigeria facing devastating levels of food insecurity, Secretary-General António Guterres joined other top United Nations officials today calling for “strong and urgent” action from the international community to help the already-fragile countries avert catastrophe.
“Famine is already a reality in parts of South Sudan. Unless we act now, it is only a matter of time until it affects other areas and other countries. We are already facing a tragedy; we must avoid it becoming a catastrophe,” said the Secretary-General, stressing: “This is preventable if the international community takes decisive action.”
Briefing the press at UN Headquarters in New York alongside the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O''Brien, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator, Helen Clark, and the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, Mr. Guterres said the UN needs $4.4 billion by the end of March to avert a catastrophe.
“Despite some generous pledges, just $90 million has actually been received so far – around two cents for every dollar needed. We are at the beginning of the year, but these numbers are very worrying,” he said.
“The lives of millions of people depend on our collective ability to act. In our world of plenty, there is no excuse for inaction or indifference.”
In South Sudan, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners aim to assist 5.8 million people this year; in Somalia, 5.5 million people and in Yemen 8.3 million.
In north-east Nigeria, humanitarians are reaching more than two million people with food assistance.
These four crises are very different, but are all preventable. “They all stem from conflict, which we must do much more to prevent and resolve,” he said, urging all members of the international community to step up and do whatever is in their power, whether that is mobilizing support, exerting political pressure on parties to conflict, or funding humanitarian operations.
“Saving lives is the first priority, but we are also looking to build longer-term resilience to shocks,” Mr. Guterres said.
The Secretary-General António Guterres called on the international community to ‘step up’ and take ‘decisive action’ to prevent devastating food insecurity levels from becoming a catastrophe.
Mr. O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, emphasized the ongoing effort of development and humanitarian partners to work together to tackle these crises. “We want to help people survive,” he said, “and help them to build more durable solutions so they will not be left in vulnerable situations.”
He stressed that 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition this year, as famine looms in the four countries, an issue spotlighted yesterday by UNICEF. He said that catastrophe can be averted if action is taken now. The funding called for by the Secretary-General must be made available by the end of March to save lives. “We are ready to scale up help with brave and committed aid workers in place.”
Miss Clark stressed that “the priority is saving lives and part of saving lives is building resilience for the future.”
Ms. Cousin said that in each of these four countries, “the plans are in place and the people are prepared to perform the work that is necessary. What we need is the resources and the access.”
“Acting now, before we reach the height of the lean season in these countries will ensure our ability to provide the support that is necessary to avoid what we all see on the horizon, which is a famine in each one of these countries if we fail to act”.
Feb. 2017
70 million people, across 45 countries, will require emergency food assistance this year. (FEWSNET)
Emergency food assistance needs unprecedented as Famine threatens four countries
The combined magnitude, severity, and geographic scope of anticipated emergency food assistance needs during 2017 is unprecedented in recent decades. Given persistent conflict, severe drought, and economic instability, FEWS NET estimates that 70 million people, across 45 countries, will require emergency food assistance this year.
Four countries – Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen – face a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5). In order to save lives, continued efforts to resolve conflict and improve humanitarian access are essential. In addition, given the scale of anticipated need, donors and implementing partners should allocate available financial and human resources to those areas where the most severe food insecurity is likely.
Food insecurity during 2017 will be driven primarily by three factors. Most importantly, persistent conflict is disrupting livelihoods, limiting trade, and restricting humanitarian access across many regions, including the Lake Chad Basin, the Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, the Great Lakes Region, Somalia, Yemen, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
A second important driver is drought, especially those driven by the 2015/16 El Niño and the 2016/17 La Niña. In Southern Africa and the Horn of Africa, significantly below-average rainfall has sharply reduced crop harvests and severely limited the availability of water and pasture for livestock.
In Central Asia, snowfall to date has also been below average, potentially limiting the water available for irrigated agriculture during 2017.
Finally, economic instability, related to conflict, a decline in foreign reserves due to low global commodity prices, and associated currency depreciation have contributed to very high staple food prices in Nigeria, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, and Yemen.
As a result of these principal drivers, FEWS NET estimates that 70 million people across 45 countries, will face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse acute food insecurity and will require emergency food assistance during 2017.
This marks the second consecutive year of extremely large needs, with the size of the acutely food insecure population roughly 40 percent higher than in 2015. The countries likely to have the largest acutely food insecure populations during 2017 are Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, and Malawi. Together, these four countries account for roughly one-third of the total population in need of emergency food assistance.
In addition to the sheer size of the food insecure population, a persistent lack of access to adequate food and income over the past three years has left households in the worst-affected countries with little ability to manage future shocks. Given this reduced capacity to cope and the possibility that additional shocks will occur, four countries face a credible risk of Famine (IPC Phase 5) during 2017.
In Nigeria, evidence suggests that Famine occurred in 2016 and could be ongoing. In both Yemen and South Sudan the combination of persistent conflict, economic instability, and restricted humanitarian access makes Famine possible over the coming year. Finally in Somalia, a failure of the October to December 2016 Deyr rains and a forecast of poor spring rains threaten a repeat of 2011 when Famine led to the deaths of 260,000 Somalis. Emergency (IPC Phase 4), characterized by large food gaps, significant increases in the prevalence of acute malnutrition, and excess mortality among children, is also anticipated in southern areas of Malawi, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Madagascar if adequate assistance is not provided.

Visit the related web page

Yemen Food Crisis deteriorates, UN Agencies appeal for urgent assistance to avert a Catastrophe
by WFP, Unicef, FAO, NRC, agencies
25 April 2017
Donors "pledge" $1.1 of $2.1 billion requested for desperately needed assistance for Yemen.
With nearly two thirds of war torn Yemen, some 19 million people in need of emergency support, the international community today raised $1.1 billion at a pledging event in Geneva to aid what the United Nations chief calls “the world’s largest hunger crisis.”
The aim was to bridge a funding gap in the 2017 humanitarian appeal of $2.1 billion. Prior to the conference, only about 15 per cent had been met.
“We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now, to save lives,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, who presided over the High-level Pledging Event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, alongside the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden.
He noted that the “man-made crisis” had devastated the economy of a country that was “pitifully poor” even before the current conflict, and forced three million people from their homes – leaving many being unable to earn a living or grow crops.
“Some 17 million are food-insecure, making this the world’s largest hunger crisis,” Mr. Guterres said, highlighting a situation worsened by import restrictions and the destruction of port facilities.
Calling particular attention to children at risk in Yemen, Mr. Guterres said that on average, one child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every 10 minutes in Yemen.
“This means fifty children in Yemen will die during today’s conference – and all those deaths could have been prevented,” he stated.
“Now we must see the pledges translated into the scaled up action the people of Yemen need and deserve,” the Mr. Guterres said.
The next challenge to overcome would be to lift access restrictions throughout Yemen. Mr. Guterres urged parties of the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered movement of humanitarian actors to reach those in need.
“Access is the key for the success of this pledging conference,” he said, calling also for the necessary infrastructure to be allowed to operate in normal conditions and for goods to be imported and distributed.
More than two years of fighting has destroyed the country’s infrastructure – including attacks that targeted civilians. Some 325 attacks have been verified on health facilities, schools, markets and other infrastructure.
As the violence rose, the ability to aid those in need has been hampered. The disruption of health services has been “severe,” Margaret Chan, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) said.
Less than half of the country’s health facilities are functioning and the majority of health providers, if they stayed, have not been paid since at least August 2016.
She warned also that infections would increase as the population grows more hungry.
“Large swaths of the population are on the brink of famine,” Dr. Chan said. “Between famine and death from starvation lies disease. Infections that a well-nourished body wards off become deadly in severely malnourished people.”
She called for more services, such as vaccinations, and access to basic health services.
25 April 2017
Race against time to save millions of lives in Yemen (WFP/UNICEF)
The continuing violence in Yemen is fuelling one of the worst hunger crises in the world, with nearly 7 million people not knowing where their next meal will come from and in desperate need of food assistance.
Nearly 2.2 million children are malnourished, including half a million who are severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death if they do not receive urgent care and specialized treatment.
“Millions of children in Yemen are acutely malnourished and many are dying from diseases that are entirely preventable,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“Without further action from parties to the conflict and the international community, Yemen is at a serious risk of plunging into famine – with even more children’s lives hanging in the balance. We are in a race against time.”
“When a country reaches a stage of famine, it means many lives have already been lost. We should never reach a point where we see children dying of starvation and bereaved mothers mourning their loss on television screens,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and East Europe.
“If we act now, many lives could be saved in Yemen. We call on the international community to urgently provide us with sufficient funding and to help us avert famine across Yemen.”
Violence and food insecurity are having a devastating toll on families’ incomes forcing them and their children to take extreme measures just to survive, including early marriage and joining the fighting. In the first three months of 2017, three times as many children were recruited and used by parties to the conflict compared with the last three months of 2016.
Violence has made large parts of the country inaccessible to humanitarian workers, cutting off vulnerable children and families from urgently needed aid.
Earlier this month, WFP announced that it is scaling up its emergency food operations in Yemen to support up to 9 million people who urgently need food assistance. WFP also aims to expand its nutritional support to prevent or treat acute malnutrition for 2.9 million children under five, and pregnant and nursing mothers, including from those families that are already assisted with food or commodity vouchers.
The needs of people in Yemen have rapidly outpaced available resources. WFP urgently requires US$1.2 billion to meet the basic requirements of 9 million food insecure people in Yemen over the coming 12 months. UNICEF has appealed for US$236 million to provide life-saving assistance to children affected by the conflict in Yemen in 2017. The efforts of both agencies are less than 20 per cent funded.
On behalf of children and vulnerable families, UNICEF and WFP are calling for an immediate political solution to end the war in Yemen.
This would provide safety for millions of desperate families in Yemen and allow for a massive scale-up of food assistance, nutrition support and other humanitarian aid. Until that happens and as the conflict intensifies, the two agencies appeal to all parties to the conflict and those who have influence on them to allow unhindered humanitarian access to people in need and refrain from any action that could prevent the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian supplies.
Mar. 2017
Children starving to death from lack of Food in Yemen, by news correspondent Sophie McNeill.
Yemen is listed as the worst-affected country facing potential famine, where more than 7 million people require emergency food assistance.
When I was in Yemen last August, we witnessed kids starving to death, in the hospitals of the capital city, Sanaa.
I''ll never forget the looks on the parents faces. They were so ashamed and embarrassed — unable to afford the most basic food for their children who now lay in hospital on the verge of death, some with their stomachs bloated and others with their tiny ribs sticking out.
Seventeen-month-old Eissa''s mum sat on the bed holding her lifeless son, tears streaming out of her eyes. We went back to that hospital the next day. Eissa''s bed was empty. He had died overnight.
It''s hard to believe the situation in Yemen has gotten so much worse since then. Now the UN says there are more than 460,000 children like Eissa who are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
"While Yemen is being starved or is starving, there is nothing really that is actually taking place to actually fix it," Jamie McGoldrick, the UN''s top aid official in Yemen, told me this week.
"What we are facing is a generation of young kids who are going to be stunted. They are never going to reach their full potential physically and intellectually, because of the importance of those early years and the right nutrition."
The plight of children starving to death in Yemen was first reported around March last year. Video and photos of this horrific phenomena has continued to be reported since then, despite the incredible difficulties facing journalists accessing the war-torn country.
But despite the overwhelming evidence, families across Yemen are continuing to watch their children die from a lack of food.
"There are stories of mothers who have to make stark choices," Mr McGoldrick told me. "Where you either use your limited money to treat your sick child, and pay for medicine and transport them to the hospital, or you don''t and that child dies and you then feed the two or three that you have."
It''s clear the world knows this is happening but is refusing to act and is choosing to ignore what is happening in Yemen.
I asked Mr McGoldrick what should people do?
"I think raise their voices to their politicians and parliaments," he said. "Create an appreciation of the tragedy that is happening here in Yemen and push their government to give aid funding to the humanitarian crisis."
Feb. 2017
The number of food insecure people in Yemen has risen by three million in seven months, with an estimated 17.1 million people now struggling to feed themselves, according to a joint assessment by three UN agencies.
Of the 17.1 million food insecure people, about 7.3 million are considered to be in need of emergency food assistance.
The preliminary results of the Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment (EFSNA) show that food security and nutrition conditions are deteriorating rapidly due to the ongoing conflict.
More than two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27.4 million people now lack access to food and consume an inadequate diet.
The EFSNA is a joint survey conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) in cooperation with the authorities in Yemen. It is the first national, household-level assessment conducted in the country since the escalation of the conflict in mid-March 2015.
Rates of acute malnutrition were found to have passed the “critical” threshold in four governorates, while agricultural production is falling across the country.
"The speed at which the situation is deteriorating and the huge jump in food insecure people is extremely worrying,” said Salah Hajj Hassan, FAO Representative in Yemen. “Bearing in mind that agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, FAO is urgently calling for funds to scale up its agricultural livelihoods support to farmers, herders and fishing communities to improve their access to food in 2017 and prevent the dire food and livelihood security situation from deteriorating further.”
“We are witnessing some of the highest numbers of malnutrition amongst children in Yemen in recent times. Children who are severely and acutely malnourished are 11 times more at risk of death as compared to their healthy peers, if not treated on time. Even if they survive, these children risk not fulfilling their developmental potentials, posing a serious threat to an entire generation in Yemen and keeping the country mired in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development,” said Dr Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.
“The current level of hunger in Yemen is unprecedented, which is translating into severe hardship and negative humanitarian consequences for millions of Yemenis, particularly affecting vulnerable groups,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP Country Director in Yemen.
“Tragically, we see more and more families skipping meals or going to bed hungry, while children and mothers are slipping away with little to sustain themselves. WFP is urgently calling for support to provide food for the seven million people who are severely food insecure and may not survive this situation for much longer.”
The severe food insecurity situation in the country has worsened sharply in recent months, with an estimated 65 percent of households now food insecure.
In addition, three-quarters of all households indicate that their economic situation is worse now than before the crisis. Incomes have fallen and many public-sector workers have gone for months without being paid. As a result, 80 percent of Yemenis are in now in debt, and more than half of all households have had to buy food on credit.
Many households – 60 percent – have resorted to negative coping mechanisms such as eating less preferred foods, reducing portions or skipping meals altogether.
The EFSNA results show that over two million children are acutely malnourished.
In four governorates – Abyan, Al Hudaydah, Hadramaut, and Taizz, – malnutrition rates have passed the “emergency” threshold, meaning an acute malnutrition rate of more than 15 percent. In seven governorates – namely Aden, Al Dhale''''e, Al Jawf, Al Mahwit, Hajjah, Lahj, and Shabwah – rates now exceed the “serious” threshold, which indicates an acute malnutrition rate of more than ten percent.
Jan 2016
Improved humanitarian access and trade support needed to limit Famine risk in Yemen
Conflict in Yemen is the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world, with 7 to 10 million people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), or worse, and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Of this total, at least two million people are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and face an increased risk of mortality.
In addition to the impact of conflict on household livelihoods, market functioning, and humanitarian access, the deteriorating macroeconomic situation is affecting the private sector’s ability to import food.
In a worst-case scenario, where food imports drop substantially for a sustained period of time or where conflict persistently prevents the flow of food to local markets, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is possible. To prevent this worse-case scenario, appropriate action is necessary to ensure that commercial food trade continues given that the country’s high import dependency significantly limits the degree to which humanitarian response can ensure local food availability. Additionally, improved humanitarian access is needed so food, health, WASH, and nutrition assistance can continue and increase.
Since the onset of conflict nearly two years ago, oil and gas exports from Yemen have been well below pre-conflict levels or suspended. The decline in these exports, which contributed 45 percent of total government revenues in 2014, and a reduction in foreign investments and donor-supported development projects, have driven a rapid decline in Yemen’s foreign reserves (MPIC, March 2016). While the official Yemeni rial to US dollar exchange rate has only depreciated 16 percent since the start of the conflict in March 2015, parallel exchange rates have depreciated much more substantially (42 percent according to MPIC, Nov 2016). Historically, the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) has supported imports of fuel and food through lines of credit at the official exchange rate. However, this support was suspended for fuel in 2015 and for rice and sugar imports in early 2016.
In December 2016, major wheat importers reported that they would no longer be able to continue wheat imports into the country, given financial challenges relating to both the CBY and the private banking sector. While WFP reports that imports to date have remained adequate to ensure local food availability, possibly due to an increase in overland, informal trade, a major reduction of food import levels, as indicated by wheat traders, would significantly and immediately impact food insecurity given that Yemen relies on imports to meet over 90 percent of its cereal supplies (FAOSTAT).
Though staple foods currently remain available on local markets, elevated food prices and reduced income from sources such as farming, fishing, government salaries, and the private service sector have significantly weakened the purchasing power of many households. While recent data on food security outcomes is limited, WFP’s data and various rapid assessments suggest severe levels of food insecurity, in line with Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4), in western areas. Food security outcomes are likely most severe in Ta’izz, southern coastal areas of Al Hudaydah, and amongst IDP populations.
Levels of acute malnutrition also remain very concerning. The prevalence of acute malnutrition is persistently high in Yemen and recent surveys do not indicate any major deterioration in the prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) compared to pre-conflict levels (with the exception of lowland areas of Ta’izz). However, the coverage of these surveys has been limited and both admissions data from nutrition treatment programs and key informant reports indicate a sharp increase in the number of children identified as severely malnourished in some areas compared to pre-conflict levels.
For example, the number of children with severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admitted to treatment programs in Al Hudaydah has increased by roughly 40 percent compared to 2014 and 2015 levels. Similarly, WFP’s surveys suggest deteriorating food security outcomes in this governorate.
Based on an assessment of the limited available evidence, FEWS NET estimates that 5 to 8 million people face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and at least two million people face Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Large-scale food assistance, including WFP’s assistance to an average of 3.5 million beneficiaries per month during the months of September and October 2016, is playing an important role in mitigating food insecurity in many areas.
However, it is not sufficient to meet Yemen’s current needs. Should conflict, commercial import levels, and humanitarian and market access continue at current levels, the size and severity of the current emergency is expected to persist during 2017.
In a worst-case scenario, commercial traders will be unable to access the credit and hard currency required to maintain large-scale wheat imports. Food availability would therefore decline sharply and already poor food consumption and nutritional outcomes would deteriorate further.
In this scenario, Famine (IPC Phase 5), and the associated levels of excess mortality, would be possible. Given that imports by humanitarian actors currently make up only 5 – 15 percent of total formal food imports into Yemen, it is very unlikely that the humanitarian community would have the capacity to fill the very large import gaps which would exist in this scenario.
Given the severity of current food security outcomes, Famine (IPC Phase 5) could also occur if conflict cuts off populations from trade and humanitarian assistance for an extended period of time.
To mitigate severe, ongoing food insecurity and prevent Famine over the coming year, the international community and local actors must protect the ability of private traders to import staple food. In addition, more resources are needed to support the continuation and expansion of humanitarian response.
Finally, continued access to conflict zones for traders and humanitarian actors is essential to ensure that food and assistance that reaches Yemen can move from points of entry to local communities.
Dec 2016
Yemen: a few months away from running out of food. (Oxfam)
Yemen’s population is at risk of catastrophic hunger as food imports continue to plunge and on current trends the war torn country will effectively run out of things to eat in a few months, Oxfam warned this week.
The international agency said that in August, the amount of food imported into Yemen fell below half the level needed to feed the country’s people and remained below that ever since.
A 20 month long war, waged between a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf countries and the Government of Yemen against the Houthis, has killed and injured over 11,000 civilians, forced more than 3 million people to flee their homes and brought the economy to near collapse.
Oxfam is calling on the Saudi-led coalition to lift shipping restrictions to allow food and other vital imports to increase, and on all parties in the conflict to allow food to move freely around the country and agree a meaningful ceasefire and restart peace talks. It is also calling for rich countries to increase support to the UN aid effort which is currently only 58 per cent funded and short of over $686 million.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB Chief Executive, said: “Yemen is being slowly starved to death. First there were restrictions on imports - including much need food - when this was partially eased the cranes in the ports were bombed, then the warehouses, then the roads and the bridges. This is not by accident - it is systematic.
“The country’s economy, its institutions, its ability to feed and care for its people are all on the brink of collapse.
“There is still time to pull it back before we see chronic hunger becoming widespread starvation. The fighting needs to stop and the ports should be fully opened to vital supplies of food, fuel and medicine.”
Even before the conflict started, nearly 90 per cent of Yemen’s food had to be imported. With the country’s agriculture hit by the fighting, that reliance on food imports has only increased.
However restrictions on shipping which are punishing the Yemeni population and the destruction of many port facilities by the Saudi-led coalition means that meeting the country’s food needs has reached a critical juncture.
In November 2015 the country was importing just over what it required, by October this year that had plunged to 40 per cent of its needs. Without a massive increase in food imports this trend is likely to continue in which case, by April next year there will virtually be no food imports.
Reduced ability of ports to handle cargo means ships have a lengthy wait at anchorage before they can berth to off-load their cargo. In November average delays at ports in the north-west were considerable - 53 days in Saleef and 23 days for Hodeidah.
There is some smuggling of food on the black market across the land border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia. This is an important source of food but not on a scale to resolve the hunger crisis.
According to the UN, malnutrition is on the increase and more than 14 million people - half the country’s population - are ‘food insecure’, without a reliable source of enough food. The World Food Programme is warning that the numbers may rise to 21 million people.
People are doubly hit with food prices increasing – cereal prices are over 50 per cent of pre-crisis levels - and income falling. Some 31 per cent of the work force are civil servants and have not been paid or have received irregular payments in recent months.
The most vulnerable of the population, 1.5 million people, who had relied on welfare payments, have received no payments since the crisis started over a year ago.
Besides a food import crisis there is also a fuel import crisis. Yemen used to be a fuel exporter but the conflict has effectively shut down production though recently there has a slight resurgence of oil production in the southern port of Aden. The country is now dependent on fuel imports and is only importing a quarter of what it needs.
Once food is in the country there is a challenge to distribute it to where it is needed, not only due to fuel shortage but because bridges on vital trade routes have been deliberated bombed. Fuel is also essential to pump water, run hospitals, light homes and keep Yemen’s ailing economy from collapsing completely.
Dec 2016
UNHCR warns millions of displaced Yemenis face “humanitarian catastrophe” as 21 months of war deepen hunger, poverty and suffering.
When intense fighting erupted in his hometown of Sa’ada close to the border with Saudi Arabia, 75-year-old Yemeni father Razaz Ali gathered up his wife and seven sons and ran for his life. Asked what he needs, he rattles off a long list.
“We’re hungry, cold and ill, we need help, food and medicines. We’re forced to depend on what people give us,” says Razaz, who now lives in a makeshift shelter with his family at the Dharwan informal settlement outside Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.
The family are among 2.18 million Yemenis uprooted within the borders of their own country by 21 months of bitter conflict. Many, like Razaz, now live precariously, taking shelter in informal settlements and public and religious buildings.
As winter approaches, many have little protection against the elements and live in overcrowded conditions without privacy, subject also to risks of eviction. Hunger and poverty are rife and the tough conditions have become unbearable for some.
Overshadowed by other regional crises and as one of the poorest countries in the Middle East, the current conflict in Yemen has amplified needs stemming from years of poverty and insecurity.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and humanitarian agencies have been mobilizing to respond to the ongoing crisis. But a staggering 18.8 million people remain in need of humanitarian assistance across the country, amid a situation that continues to deteriorate.
“Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis and the situation is worsening day by day. This is a neglected humanitarian catastrophe,” says UNHCR’s Representative for Yemen, Ayman Gharaibeh.
UNHCR’s prioritized emergency assistance has reached 660,000 of Yemen’s 2.18 million internally displaced people across 20 governorates since the start of the war, although the response has been limited by underfunding.
So far, the UN Refugee Agency has received less than half of the funds it has sought - just 43 per cent of its prioritized response in Yemen - and Gharaibeh warned that the “lack of support limits our capacity to provide urgent relief.”
As a result of the conflict, more than half of Yemen’s entire population lack sufficient food and those displaced remain particularly affected. Food is the major need for Yemen’s internally displaced followed only by water, sanitation and shelter, evidencing mounting challenges to basic survival.
With the conflict showing no signs of abating the overwhelming majority are languishing for an average of at least one year away from home, deprived of their basic needs. Faced with scarce resources, depleted savings and uncertain futures, one million have even attempted to return home in the absence of hope or alternatives.
In the face of unrelenting warfare with millions losing their livelihoods, many displaced households are reliant on the overstretched generosity and compassion of local communities who are buckling under the strain of hosting them for extended periods. Others, meanwhile, are reliant on humanitarian aid or are forced to resort to survival strategies that otherwise compromise their safety and well-being.
Faced with desperate need, incidents of early marriage, recruitment, begging and child labour are all increasingly reported. Among those resorting to sending her children out to beg is 50-year-old mother of eight, Zahrah, a widow who also lives in Dharwan in a tent and has no other means of support. “I send all my children to beg for food every day,” she laments.
For displaced father Abdu Shoei from Sa’ada, who also lives in Dharwan, the only way to ensure enough food and medicine for his children is to resort to selling a locally grown narcotic leaf, called Qat. “We don’t have any income or assistance so my wife has to beg for Qat from farms to sell,” he says.
With needs rising sharply across the country and millions continuing to face grave risks to their safety and basic rights, the only hope for internally displaced people like Amal from Taizz can cling onto is to see an end to disastrous conflict and to return home in peace. “I am not a politician. I have nothing to do with politics. I just want to live my life peacefully and see my children happy,” she says.
In addition to the millions of Yemenis displaced at home, more than 180,000 people have also fled Yemen to neighboring countries including the Gulf States and the Horn of Africa to escape the fighting.


View more stories

Submit a Story Search by keyword and country Guestbook