Could hydroponics save Yemen from starving?

yemen child starving crisis food insecurity

The number of food insecure people in Yemen has risen by 3 million in seven months, with an estimated 17.1 million people now struggling to feed themselves, according to a joint assessment by three UN agencies.

Of the 17.1 million food insecure people, about 7.3 million are considered to be in need of emergency food assistance.

The preliminary results of the Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment, created by the UN, show that food security and nutrition conditions are deteriorating rapidly due to the ongoing conflict.

More than two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27.4 million people now lack access to food and consume an inadequate diet. Another Syria-style crisis may be on our way, and climate change and lack of water is making it worse.

Rates of acute malnutrition were found to have passed the “critical” threshold in four governorates, while agricultural production is falling across the country.

“The speed at which the situation is deteriorating and the huge jump in food insecure people is extremely worrying,” said Salah Hajj Hassan, FAO Representative in Yemen. “Bearing in mind that agriculture is the main source of livelihood for the majority of the population, FAO is urgently calling for funds to scale up its agricultural livelihoods support to farmers, herders and fishing communities to improve their access to food in 2017 and prevent the dire food and livelihood security situation from deteriorating further.”

beauty of Yemen

“We are witnessing some of the highest numbers of malnutrition amongst children in Yemen in recent times. Children who are severely and acutely malnourished are 11 times more at risk of death as compared to their healthy peers, if not treated on time. Even if they survive, these children risk not fulfilling their developmental potentials, posing a serious threat to an entire generation in Yemen and keeping the country mired in the vicious cycle of poverty and under development,” said Dr Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Representative in Yemen.

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“The current level of hunger in Yemen is unprecedented, which is translating into severe hardship and negative humanitarian consequences for millions of Yemenis, particularly affecting vulnerable groups,” said Stephen Anderson, WFP Country Director in Yemen. “Tragically, we see more and more families skipping meals or going to bed hungry, while children and mothers are slipping away with little to sustain themselves. WFP is urgently calling for support to provide food for the seven million people who are severely food insecure and may not survive this situation for much longer.”

Food Security

The severe food insecurity situation in the country has worsened sharply in recent months, with an estimated 65 percent of households now food insecure.

In addition, three-quarters of all households indicate that their economic situation is worse now than before the crisis. Incomes have fallen and many public-sector workers have gone for months without being paid. As a result, 80 percent of Yemenis are in now in debt, and more than half of all households have had to buy food on credit.

Many households – 60 percent – have resorted to negative coping mechanisms such as eating less preferred foods, reducing portions or skipping meals altogether.


The EFSNA results show that over 2 million children are acutely malnourished.

In four governorates – Abyan, Al Hudaydah, Hadramaut, and Taizz, – malnutrition rates have passed the “emergency” threshold, meaning an acute malnutrition rate of more than 15 percent. In seven governorates – namely Aden, Al Dhale’e, Al Jawf, Al Mahwit, Hajjah, Lahj, and Shabwah – rates now exceed the “serious” threshold, which indicates an acute malnutrition rate of more than 10 percent.


The agriculture sector is the main source of livelihood for at least 60 percent of Yemeni households. The livelihoods of this critical segment of the population have been hit hard with agricultural production falling drastically in 2016, compared to pre-crisis levels.

Up to 1.5 million households engaged in agriculture now lack access to critical agricultural inputs (including seeds, fertiliser, fuel for irrigation) and are in urgent need of emergency agricultural support. Of these, 860 000 households engaged in livestock production lack access to animal feed (fodder, concentrate, mineral blocks) and many livestock-dependent households have been forced to sell their herds to cater for other household needs.

Meanwhile, inadequate control of crop and livestock disease further erodes an already struggling agricultural sector and requires emergency protection and safeguarding of assets.

Related: hydroponic robot Eddy could feed the world

FAO’s emergency work in 2017 focuses on four main areas of activity: providing agriculture kits and tools, as well as vegetable kits and irrigation systems to vulnerable households to improve families’ access to food; emergency protection of livestock by vaccinating millions of animals; providing emergency support to improve and diversify income and livelihoods with cash-for-work programmes, poultry, bee keeping, and fishing; and strengthening the coordination of institutional food security and agriculture responses while building resilience.

FAO is urgently requesting $48.4 million to scale up its response and assist 3 million of the most vulnerable people in Yemen in 2017.

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