UN humanitarians have painted a morbid picture of what is in store for Yemen, where more than 16 million people are going hungry this year, tens of thousands of people are already living in famine-like conditions, and 5 million more are just one step away.
Yemen has been in the throes of a wrenching war since Iran-backed Houthi militias launched a nationwide insurgency around six years ago.
While the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) raised the alarm on worsening living conditions in the war-torn country, Houthi leaders came out in strong opposition to peace efforts and reaffirmed their determination to press on with the violence.
“Supporting battles is the only true and effective war to preserve achievements,” tweeted Mohammed Ali al-Houthi on Saturday, adding that work is underway to garner more reinforcement for fighting from tribes, officials, and civilians.
In a briefing of the current humanitarian situation in Yemen, OCHA revealed that many Yemenis are struggling with food insecurity during Islam’s holy month of fasting, Ramadan. They cannot secure their daily meals under the crushing weight of steep prices that have been hiked by over 200% since conflict broke out in 2015.
“In Yemen, the humanitarian situation is falling off a cliff, and more than 20 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance,” said OCHA.
According to the agency, the depletion of foreign currency reserves drove inflation up and eroded the purchasing power of Yemenis. This cut back Yemenis’ access to food.
To date, sources of foreign currency inflow in Yemen – especially oil exports, humanitarian funding, and bilateral financial support – remain constrained.
In March, the Yemeni rial hit a record low, resulting in another increase in food prices.
The increase in the cost of food is forcing Yemenis to reduce the number and size of their daily meals, borrow food or request help from friends and relatives, and rely on less expensive food.
In the long term, these negative coping strategies are likely to have a detrimental effect on people’s health, making them more vulnerable to food insecurity, malnutrition, waterborne diseases, and other disease outbreaks.
Given the increasing risks of famine in Yemen, the UN urged the international community to act before the humanitarian situation in the battle-scarred country falls off a cliff.