Various UN agency chiefs warned on Monday that Yemen’s already dire hunger crisis is “teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe”, as new data analysis from the war-ravaged country indicated potentially record food insecurity.
The warning from the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Food Programme (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), followed a surge of violence across Yemen, which left at least 47 children killed or maimed in January and February.
WFP Executive Director David Beasley said that to date, more than 17.4 million Yemenis are food insecure; an additional 1.6 million “are expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger” in coming months, taking the total of those with emergency needs, to 7.3 million by the end of the year.
Of extreme concern to humanitarians is the likelihood that the number of people experiencing “catastrophic”– or famine-like – levels of hunger, will increase five-fold, from 31,000 now, to 161,000 by 31 December.
“These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it,” said Beasley.
“Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions,” Beasley added.
The development comes as heavy fighting was reported over the weekend between Yemeni Government troops and Houthi forces around the oil-rich northern city of Marib, which is still under government control, killing and wounding dozens of combatants.
The fighting took place as UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, ended his first week of consultations with key Yemeni parties in a push for a peaceful and sustainable future for the country which has been locked in escalating conflict since 2015.
Ahead of a High-Level Pledging Event on the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen this Wednesday, the UN’s top aid official in Yemen, David Gressly, said in a tweet that funding was “urgently needed to sustain food and nutrition support, clean water, basic health care and protection. Parties to the conflict can reduce aid reliance by reducing restrictions on the economy.”
After seven years of fighting, “many households in Yemen are deprived of basic food needs”, said Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
In a search for solutions, the FAO chief added that the agency was working “directly with farmers on the ground to foster their self-reliance through a combination of emergency and longer-term livelihood support, to build up their resilience, support local agrifood production, and offset people’s reliance on imports”.
Highlighting the long-lasting, negative impact on children, UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell warned that “more and more children” were “going to bed hungry” in Yemen.
“This puts them at increased risk of physical and cognitive impairment, and even death,” Ms. Russell added. “The plight of children in Yemen can no longer be overlooked. Lives are at stake.”
For 2022, UNICEF alone requires US$484.4 million to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
According to the latest food insecurity analysis, there’s been a rise in acute malnutrition among children under five in Yemen, and new mothers.
Across the country – already one of the world’s poorest before conflict escalated – 2.2 million children are now acutely malnourished; an additional 500,000 youngsters face severe acute malnutrition, which is a life-threatening condition.
Among the worst-hit governorates are Hajjah, Hodeida and Taizz.
Pregnant or nursing mothers are also at risk from the dire lack of food, with around 1.3 million acutely malnourished, according to the new Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis on Yemen, released on Monday.
“The resounding takeaway (of the IPC findings) is that we need to act now,” said Mr. Gressly, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “We need to sustain the integrated humanitarian response for millions of people, including food and nutrition support, clean water, basic health care, protection and other necessities.” (Source: UN News)