Warring parties in Yemen and their international backers are pushing the country to the brink of famine, Oxfam warned today, ahead of the two year anniversary of the escalation of the war. Nearly 7 million people have been pushed to the brink of starvation and 70 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid.
Oxfam is calling for urgent action on two fronts: an immediate resumption of the peace process and for donors to provide the additional $2.1 billion the UN says is needed for the humanitarian response.
"If the parties to the conflict – and those fueling it with arms sales – continue to ignore Yemen’s food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine,” said Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen. “The people of Yemen are being starved to death and may not survive the situation much longer. A fully funded humanitarian response is vital to prevent countless people dying needlessly but ultimately what Yemenis need is an end to the fighting.”
Airstrikes and fighting have killed more than 7,600 people, including over 4,600 civilians while leaving 18.8 million people – 70 percent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, the highest number in any country worldwide.
Ports, roads and bridges, along with warehouses, farms and markets have been regularly destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition, draining the country’s food stocks. The Houthi led authority is delaying the delivery of life-saving relief, and sometimes detaining aid workers. This, coupled with a flattened economy, has created an abyss of hunger and left 6.8 million people on the brink of famine.
While the de facto blockade on Yemen has been partially eased, new restrictions on shipping and the destruction of many port facilities, such as the cranes of Al-Hudaydah port in August 2015, have nearly exhausted the country’s food supplies . Fighting on Yemen’s west coast escalated last month, especially around Al-Hudaydah and Mocha ports, which risks cutting off millions of people from the food and goods they need to survive. In a worst-case scenario, where food imports drop substantially or where conflict prevents supplies being moved around the country, famine is possible.
“All sides to the conflict need to understand that famine is the real enemy of Yemen. Preventing famine must take priority over any side’s military aims. The world cannot wait for famine to be declared in Yemen or it will be too late,” continued Sajid.
An Oxfam food survey of 2,000 families who have been forced to flee their homes in north-west Yemen, between November and December 2016, found that 85 percent of people were going hungry. The only options they have are to reduce the amount of food they eat or feed what little they have to their children and go hungry themselves. They skip meals and end up buying food of lesser quality, often on credit. Some have no source of food at all and only survive thanks to humanitarian aid and the generosity of their neighbors.
In order to save the lives of millions of starving people, Oxfam is urging the United Nations Secretary General to pressure all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks, to reach a negotiated peace agreement, and improve the economic situation in the country.
Oxfam is calling for all land, sea and air routes to Yemen to be opened and for all parties to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law.
Notes to editors
1. Photos and stories from Yemen are also available.
2. Oxfam has reached more than a million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, food vouchers and other essential aid since July 2015.
3. For more information on the food security situation in Yemen, go to Yemen: IPC Analysis – Acute Food Insecurity Current Situation Overview – March 2017