Three out of four Yemenis will depend on food aid in 2022, United Nations (UN) officials have said ahead of a high-level pledging conference which aims to raise funds for the war-torn country.
The UN has stressed that $4.3 billion is needed to address Yemen’s food shortages this year and prevent 19 million people from going hungry, and it hopes conference participants will meet the target on Wednesday in Geneva. .
“For now, funding is drying up and agencies are stopping their work in Yemen,” UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths said on Tuesday. “We need to replenish the food supply, provide shelter and send a message to Yemenis that we don’t forget them.”
Officials described impending doom in the Middle Eastern country, which is entering its seventh year of conflict.
The fighting pits Iran-allied Houthi rebels, who control many of the country’s most populated regions, including the capital Sanaa, against the internationally recognized Yemeni government. A Saudi-led coalition supports the Yemeni government and has been waging an air campaign against the Houthis since March 2015.
Earlier this year, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) was forced to cut food rations for eight million people due to a lack of funding, with households barely receiving half of the minimum food basket standard WFP daily. Today, the lack of funds puts five million people at risk of sinking into near-famine conditions.
Griffiths, the former UN special envoy to Yemen, said the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen could worsen as wheat imports from Ukraine, which supplies around 40% of Yemen’s grain, could stop.
“Ukraine is a breadbasket for many countries and must remain so,” Griffiths said, warning of the ripple effects Russia’s war on Ukraine could have on other conflict zones that depend on the country’s wheat production.
In a report released on Monday, the UN WFP, its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and its UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that the humanitarian situation in Yemen is on the worsen between June and December 2022.
Some 19 million people are expected to need food assistance, an increase from the current 17.4 million. Of these, 7.3 million people will face emergency levels of hunger.
The report also shows a persistently high level of acute malnutrition among children under five. Across the country, some 2.2 million children suffer from acute malnutrition, including more than half a million children suffering from severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition.
In addition, approximately 1.3 million pregnant or breastfeeding women suffer from acute malnutrition. New data also shows that the number of people facing starvation is expected to increase fivefold, from 31,000 currently to 161,000 in the second half of 2022.
“Peace is needed to end the decline,” United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly said in a statement on Tuesday. “The parties to the conflict should lift all restrictions on trade and investment for non-sanctioned products. This will help lower food prices and free the economy.
Yemen’s economy has collapsed amid a Saudi-led coalition blockade of its main ports, which limits access to food and fuel, as well as non-essential goods entering the country. Parties to the conflict, including the Houthis and the Yemeni government, have also restricted the transfer of fuel and goods across the country.
Food prices more than doubled in 2021, while over the same period many salaries went unpaid and remittances stagnated due to COVID-19.