Yemenis face starvation amid 'catastrophic' war

Yemenis face starvation amid 'catastrophic' war
Analysis: Yemen is struggling with the highest ever recorded number of people living in hunger, with nearly 13 million facing difficulties in finding enough to eat.
3 min read
28 July, 2015
File Photo: Over one million people are facing malnourishment in Yemen [Getty]

Nearly 25,000 people a day are going hungry in Yemen, as the conflict rages on and warring parties ignore calls for a ceasefire.
Yemen is now battling with the highest ever recorded number of people living in hunger, with around 13 million struggling to find enough to eat - half of them on the brink of starvation, global charity Oxfam warned on Tuesday.

A Saudi-led coalition has been waging an air campaign against the Houthis, who control the capital, Sanaa, since March. 

The UN human rights office in Geneva said Tuesday that the civilian death toll from four months of fighting has risen to nearly 1,900, with at least 202 people killed over the past 12 days.

A ceasefire was announced on Monday to allow desperately needed aid deliveries for innocent civilians caught up in nearly four months of fighting, but has so far failed to hold.

Earlier this month, the United Nations declared its highest-level humanitarian emergency in Yemen, stating that over 80 percent of the population needs assistance.

Before the recent violence, Yemen had the second highest malnutrition rate in the world.

But since the conflict erupted in March, an additional 650,000 children, pregnant and lactating mothers have become malnourished, bringing the number up to a staggering 1.5 million, Oxfam said.

As warring parties continue to ignore calls for a ceasefire, the average family in Yemen is left wondering when their next meal will be

"As the warring parties continue to ignore calls for a ceasefire, the average family in Yemen is left wondering when their next meal will be - if they survive the bombs, they're now running out of food" Philippe Clerc, Oxfam Country Director in Yemen said.

A top UN relief official declared that the humanitarian consequences of the conflict as “catastrophic.”

"The intensification of violence and conflict over the past four months has devastated the city and destroyed the lives and livelihoods of the majority of its people" UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw said.

"I heard numerous accounts of death, hunger and utter desperation as mothers and fathers struggle to find safety, security and care for their loved ones" he added.

Food scarcity

Since March, only 20 percent of domestic food needs have entered the country.

Many civilians told Oxfam that they cope with the lack of food and cash by begging, polishing shoes and hoping for charity. For most, their only source of food is one cooked meal a day provided by a local organisation.

Oxfam found that the governorate of Saada was the most affected in the country.

Around 80 percent of its people are going hungry, 50 percent at a critical level, the charity warned, adding that the scarcity of food is pushing prices beyond the reach of millions, many of whom have been without income for months now.

In June, Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Saada, reporting that the targeting of civilians constituted as a "violation of international humanitarian law".

"Not only were these attacks unlawful because of the apparent absence of any military target, but they contributed to civilian hardship in the city, where people are suffering from shortages of food, water, and fuel," the report said.

Food availability in the south-western governorates of Aden, Abyan, Ad-daleh, Lahj, and Shabwa, are also "alarmingly low" the international charity said.

The UN special envoy on Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, previously warned that the country was "one step" away from famine.

According to the UN, Yemen's humanitarian appeal has only received 15 percent of the requested $1.6 billion required for the year. 

“We need to get children back to school and provide psycho-social support to the women, men, girls and boys that have witnessed and experienced unspeakable violence in a city that has seen some of the bloodiest fighting since the escalation of conflict in March,” Van der Klaauw said.