Yemen is starving, Ukraine war is making it worse


A child in Yemen by Carl Waldmeier, licensed by CC.

Yemen’s already dire hunger crisis is teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe, with 17.4 million people now in need of food assistance and a growing portion of the population coping with emergency levels of hunger, UN agencies tell us.

The humanitarian situation in the country is poised to get even worse between June and December 2022, with the number of people who likely will be unable to meet their minimum food needs in Yemen possibly reaching a record 19 million people in that period, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN World Food Programme  and UNICEF alerted.

At the same time, an additional 1.6 million people in the country are expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger, taking the total to 7.3 million people by the end of the year, the agencies added.

A new report also shows a persistent high level of acute malnutrition among children under the age of five. Across Yemen, 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, including nearly more than half a million children facing severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. In addition, around 1.3 million pregnant or nursing mothers are acutely malnourished.

Hunger a product of Middle East conflict

“The resounding takeaway is that we need to act now. We need to sustain the integrated humanitarian response for millions of people, including food and nutrition support, clean water, basic health care, protection and other necessities,” said the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly.

beauty of Yemen

“Peace is required to end the decline, but we can make progress now. The parties to the conflict should lift all restrictions on trade and investment for non-sanctioned commodities. This will help lower food prices and unleash the economy, giving people the dignity of a job and a path to move away from reliance on aid,” he added.

Conflict remains the primary underlying driver of hunger in Yemen. The economic crisis – a by-product of conflict – and the depreciation of the currency have pushed food prices in 2021 to their highest levels since 2015. The Ukraine war is likely to lead to significant import shocks, further driving food prices. Yemen depends almost entirely on food imports with 30 percent of its wheat imports coming from Ukraine.

“Many households in Yemen are deprived of basic food needs due to an overlap of drivers,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “FAO is working directly with farmers on the ground to foster their self-reliance through a combination of emergency and longer-term livelihood support, to build up their resilience, support local agrifood production, and offset people’s reliance on imports.”

locusts in Yemen

Meanwhile, acute malnutrition among young children and mothers in Yemen has been on the rise. Among the worst hit governorates are Hajjah, Hodeida and Taizz. Children with severe acute malnutrition are at risk of death if they don’t receive therapeutic feeding assistance. 

“More and more children are going to bed hungry in Yemen,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This puts them at increased risk of physical and cognitive impairment, and even death. The plight of children in Yemen can no longer be overlooked. Lives are at stake.”

Yemen has been plagued by one of the world’s worst food crises. Parents are often unable to bring their children to treatment facilities because they cannot afford transportation or their own expenses while their children are being assisted.

Save the Children is one organisation you can help. 


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