Food shortages will rise sharply in parts of war-torn Yemen in the next six months mainly because of the overall economic decline and the coronavirus pandemic that has ripped through the Arab world‘s poorest country, United Nations agencies have warned.
A report by the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children‘s Fund and the Food and Agriculture Organization said the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity is expected to increase from two million to 3.2 million in the country‘s south.
Yemen has been the site of the largest food crisis in the world, mostly because of the war that pits the country‘s Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led coalition fighting on the side of the internationally recognised government.
Coronavirus restrictions, economic shocks, conflict, reduced remittances, desert locusts, floods and significant underfunding of this year’s aid response have compounded an already dire hunger situation after five years of war.
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.
“Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts,” said Laurent Bukera, the WFP director for Yemen. “We must act now.”
Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world‘s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than three million people internally displaced and two-thirds of the population reliant on food assistance for survival.
Donor countries recently cut back on aid to Yemen amid the coronavirus pandemic and also due to concerns that the aid might not be reaching intended recipients in territories controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis.
“Yemen is again on the brink of a major food security crisis,” said Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.
Some 24 million Yemeni people – 80 percent of the country‘s population – require some form of assistance or protection, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
And 75 percent of UN programmes for the country, covering essentially every sector, from food to healthcare and nutrition, have already shut their doors or reduced operations.