Yemen: 18 million could suffer 'worst famine for 100 years'

Yemen: 18 million could suffer 'worst famine for 100 years'
Half of Yemenis could be affected by the world's worst famine in a century as economic crisis prices out people from buying food and civilian infrastructure is targeted by airstrikes.
3 min read
16 October, 2018
A man carries his child suffering from malnutrition at a hospital in Sanaa [Getty]
Some 12 million Yemenis could soon be faced with the worst famine in 100 years if the security and economic situation in the war-ravaged country does not improve, the UN warned on Tuesday.

"Yemen is currently facing the world's worst hunger crisis, with almost 18 million people throughout the country not knowing where their next meal is coming from," World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel told reporters in Geneva.

Over eight million people are already considered to be on the brink of famine in Yemen, he said, adding that the situation was being exacerbated by sky-rocketing food prices, which have soared by a third in the past year alone.

"If the situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely food insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions," he warned.

"I think many of us felt as we went into the 21st century that it was unthinkable that we could see a famine like we saw in Ethiopia, that we saw in Bengal, that we saw in parts of the Soviet Union – that was just unacceptable," Lise Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen told the BBC on Monday.

"Many of us had the confidence that would never happen again and yet the reality is that in Yemen that is precisely what we are looking at," she added.

Verhoosel added that the growing number of vulnerable people means that the WFP is in dire need of more funding: "The more people [who need help], the more money is needed".

WFP is in the process of scaling up its activities in Yemen to provide emergency food assistance to some eight million of the country's hungriest people each month, Verhoosel said.

But he lamented that due to the dire security situation in the port city of Hodeida, the UN agency still did not have access to some 51,000 tonnes of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility there, which would be enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.

"We are doing everything we can to ensure access to these wheat stocks," Verhoosel said. 

Yemen's air, land and sea ports are currently functioning, so WFP had several ships filled with aid headed towards Yemen, and is working to reposition stocks in case routes are cut off, he said.

However many are now living in remote villages in the mountains of northern Yemen, isolated by lack of roads an other infrastructure.

On top of this, experts have pointed out that the Saudi-led coalition is purposefully targeting the war-torn country's agricultural areas and food production sites, in a form of 'economic warfare' aimed at engineering a famine.

According to Martha Mundy's report analysing the coalition's air raids since 2015, she also argues that civilian targets including hospitals, markets, health, water and sanitation centres have been regular targets.

Agencies contributed to this report.