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Fragile nations face major food security threats

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Washington, D.C. – Looming food crises in Afghanistan and Yemen could spiral out of control if governments don’t respond now, according to international humanitarian organization Oxfam America. New field research compiled by Oxfam shows that nearly 3 million people across Afghanistan are facing food shortages as a result of drought. In Yemen, already 7.5 million people, about one-third of the population, are going hungry and crippling food prices and fuel shortages are driving families to the breaking point.

“Governments need to heed the lessons from the current crisis in the Horn of Africa - where delays cost lives - and act now,” said Raymond C. Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America.  “We must meet immediate humanitarian needs for food and water but we must also take protective measures to address the underlying drivers of hunger and volatile food prices.”

See Oxfam’s 5-point plan to address the global food crisis.

The drought is affecting 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces in the north, northeast and west of the country where 80 percent of the non-irrigated wheat crop, which people rely on for food and income, has been lost. Nearly three quarters of the people living in the affected areas say they will run out of food in less than two months. People are reducing the amount of food they are eating and selling what little they have including their livestock. An estimated 50 percent of livestock in drought affected area has already been sold despite prices falling by 40 to 50 percent.

In Yemen a new survey by Oxfam in the western governorate of al Hodeia found that nearly two thirds (64 percent) of poor people said they had resorted to skipping meals, and one-in-five (19 percent) had taken their children out of school to find work to help the family survive.  Many families are relying on a diet of bread and rice alone.

At the same time, food prices have skyrocketed putting basic food items out of reach of poor families. Cereal prices, for example, have increased in affected areas of Afghanistan by 80 percent. Many water sources have dried up, which is forcing people and animals to share and leading to a heightened risk of water-borne disease.

“We have had reports of people trekking nine hours for clean water and going into debt to ensure their children have food,” said Offenheiser. “Ordinary families are telling us they simply don’t have the money to buy even the basics. Many say they don’t know where their next meal is coming from.  Aid is needed now to help families through winter and the next harvest.  Long term fixes to our food-system to prevent future crisis must follow.”

While donors have pledged billions of dollars to help Tunisia, Egypt and Libya rebuild their economies and meet humanitarian needs, people living in Yemen, the poorest country in the region, are being forgotten.  The country is facing major shortfall in humanitarian aid funding, as some donors have historically focused on short-term political objectives.

The United Nations-administered Humanitarian Response Plan and the World Food Program are facing shortfalls of more than $150 million for assistance to Yemen. The United States has provided $58 million and in recent months support has come from Gulf States in the form of significant donations of oil but more needs to be done.

“We can no longer afford to live crisis to crisis,” said Offenheiser.  “We are witnessing first hand across the region the tumult we risk if humanitarian emergencies go unattended.  Stability, security and our moral responsibility are all at stake if we do not take urgent actions now.”

Notes to the Editor:

Yemen

  • Oxfam is preparing to respond in Yemen’s al Hodeida through a program that gives cash to highly vulnerable families suffering from hunger. In the long-term, Oxfam will work to improve employment opportunities and the ability of communities to feed themselves. The program is expected to support 100,000 people.
  • Oxfam is also responding to the needs of thousands of temporarily displaced people temporarily living in schools in Yemen’s port of Aden. Oxfam is also delivering water, sanitation and hygiene programs to 20,000 people in the camps in the north.

Afghanistan

  • Oxfam is running nutrition programs in Sarepul, Balkh and Faryab. After conducting assessments in, Oxfam will support households by running water, sanitation and hygiene program and emergency food security and livelihoods support in Faryab, Sarepul, Daikundi and Badakshan.

/ENDS

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