Yemen's silent emergency

Even several months into their stay at the camp, The Guardian found cases of families with severely malnourished children. Faris al Thweabi arrived with his family in Mazrak in September from the Haiden district west of Saada but remains severely malnourished.
Credit: Hugh Macleod

As the eyes of the world’s donor community turn to the horn of Africa, where in southern Somalia the 21st Century’s first famine has officially been declared, across the Red Sea in Yemen, U.N. agencies are also blowing the whistle as ongoing conflicts threaten to push millions into starvation.

Aid workers call hunger in Yemen the country’s “silent emergency”. With the third highest rates of malnutrition in the world, worse than anywhere in Sub-Saharan Africa, generations of Yemeni children grow up stunted, physically and mentally less than their potential.

A third of the country, over seven million people, struggle daily to afford enough food to lead a healthy and productive life, with many parents pulling their children out of school so they can help at home.

A 2010 survey by WFP estimated that of those going hungry each day, 2.7 million Yemenis are classified as “severely food insecure” meaning they spend one third of their meager incomes just on bread.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) reported recently that food insecurity is on the rise in parts of Yemen, with families trying to cope by liquidating their assets, skipping meals and diverting funds from health care and education.

The price of fuel on the black market has risen by 500 per cent since January this year, WFP spokesperson Emilia Casella told a news briefing in Geneva, while the price of bread has increased by 50 per cent, the prices of flour, sugar and milk have risen between 40 and 60 per cent. The cost of water is also going up.

Conflict in the southern Abyan province, where a security forces report clashes with Al Qaeda militants, has uprooted nearly 20,000 people, many poor farmers, who the ICRC said in a statement yesterday would be likely be in need of long term humanitarian assistance. 

In its latest Yemen situation report, WFP said the country was “entering a serious humanitarian crisis.”


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