Thousands of Yemenis depend on food aid
By: Mona Zaid
More than half of Yemen’s population faces ‘severe acute food insecurity. United Nations in Yemen says 8.4 million Yemenis are severely food insecure and depend on emergency food assistance.
Yemen’s war and the ensuing economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53 per cent of the population, facing “severe acute food insecurity” and famine was a danger if immediate action was not taken.
Hunger and food insecurity have increased 70 per cent over pre-crisis levels, and severe acute malnutrition among children has increased by a staggering 150 per cent,” says the OCHA report.
In the northern province of Saada, international aid groups estimate that 445,000 people need food assistance.
The UN has sent enough food to feed twice that many people, yet the latest figures from the UN and other relief organizations show that 65 percent of residents are facing severe food shortages. WFP is trying to get food aid to as many as 12 million severely hungry people.
“It was discovered that some food relief is being given to people not entitled to it and some is being sold for gain in the markets of the capital,” the WFP statement said.
The UN’s World Food Program has 5,000 distribution sites across the country targeting 10 million people a month with food baskets but says it can monitor just 20 percent of the deliveries.
In some parts of the country, fighting, roadblocks and bureaucratic obstacles have reduced the amount of aid getting in, in other areas, aid gets in but still doesn’t get to the hungriest families. More than five million children risk famine in war-torn Yemen as food and fuel prices soar, Save the Children said , warning an entire generation may face death and “starvation on an unprecedented scale”.
Despite the surge in help, hunger — and, in some pockets of the country, famine-level starvation — have continued to grow.
The already dire humanitarian situation is being exacerbated by the battle for the lifeline port of Hodeida, which is threatening to disrupt what little aid is trickling into the country.
Located on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, blockaded by Saudi Arabia and its allies.
The United Nations has warned that any major fighting in Hodeida could halt food distributions to eight million Yemenis dependent on them for survival, the country’s economy and population of 22 million people depend almost entirely on imports.
Over the past three years, war in Yemen has caused hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties and devastated much of the country, it is now one of the world’s largest humanitarian crises, with 14 million people in Yemen currently depending entirely on aid for their survival.
The scale of the disaster requires urgent action to ensure that all who are affected have their rights to humanitarian assistance and protection upheld, this includes older people, who can be among the most vulnerable during conflicts if the right support is not provided.
We know that older people and people with disabilities are at greater risk of being left behind when fleeing conflict, and that those that do escape are likely to face barriers in accessing information and services, they are often overlooked by government and humanitarian services.
We estimate that 1.65 million older people are at risk and in need of humanitarian assistance. Mark Lowcock, UNOCHA’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, has stated that “the immune systems of millions of people are now literally collapsing, making them – especially children and the elderly – more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases”. Malnutrition levels among older people are also alarmingly high, older people’s mobility can prevent them from overcoming barriers to accessing food distribution sites in Yemen, even if they can reach them, the standard rations available are not suitable for many older people who may struggle to digest them.
For those agencies able to respond, it is crucial that older people and other vulnerable groups are included in aid assessments, distributions and response activities. Eighty-two per cent of older women we spoke to are entirely dependent on humanitarian aid, but only 21% of them can access it, there needs to be a particular focus on ensuring older women are able to access assistance. Humanitarian coordination mechanisms and agencies need to ensure tailored solutions are provided to older people and those who depend on them, including children, and there needs to be specific efforts to address the unique challenges faced by older people who have disabilities.
This could mean ensuring older people have access to cash assistance, medicines for chronic illnesses, and age-inclusive food rations and distributions, as well as including older women and men in protection initiatives.
It says “humanitarians estimate that 3.5 million to 4 million more people could become severely food insecure in the months ahead” if current economic conditions continue. “In a worst case, this number could increase to 5.6 million, bringing the total number of people in Yemen in pre-famine conditions to 14 million.”
An analysis by a coalition of global relief groups found that even with the food aid that is coming in, more than half of the population is not getting enough to eat — 15.9 million of Yemen’s 29 million people, they include 10.8 million who are in an “emergency” phase of food insecurity, roughly 5 million who are in a deeper “crisis” phase and 63,500 who are facing “catastrophe,” a synonym for famine.
“Time is running out for aid agencies in Yemen to prevent this country from slipping into a devastating famine and we cannot afford any disruption to the lifeline we are providing for the innocent victims of this conflict,” said World Food Programme director David Beasley.
Increases in funding and greater flexibility is needed from humanitarian donors to meet the urgent health, nutrition and protection needs of people in Yemen, especially for those who face additional challenges in accessing aid.
The World Food Programme last year warned that food had become a “weapon of war” in Yemen, where fighting, cholera and looming famine have created what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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, while over 8 million of them are considered to be on the brink of famine.