UN sounds alarm as war pushes Yemen to the brink of famine

A third of Yemen's 22 provinces are on the brink of famine, with 60 percent of the country's population going hungry. The UN says the situation in Yemen is "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world."

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Yemen, along with Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, is facing the risk of famine. There are over 20 million facing starvation.

Updated Mar 27, 2017

A third of Yemen's 22 provinces are on the brink of famine, the UN said on Friday, warning that 60 percent of the war-ravaged country's population is going hungry. 

Yemen, long one of the world's poorest nations, has seen its food security deteriorate dramatically since its civil war escalated two years ago after the intervention of a Saudi-led coalition.

"We are deeply concerned that Yemen is on the brink of famine," Bettina Luescher, a spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) said.

"Out of the 22 (provinces), seven are in emergency phase four, and that is one level before declaring a famine — Bettina Luescher 

The WFP is currently providing food to about seven million in Yemen each month, she said, pointing out that they account for fewer than half the 17 million said to be going hungry.

Those lucky enough to get aid are not receiving all the nutrients they need, Luescher said, because full rations cannot be provided.

"Lack of funding, the ongoing conflict, restricted movement of humanitarian aid workers are the major obstacles to get food and other assistance to the people," she said.

Conflict-provoked crisis

The Yemen conflict has left more than 7,400 dead and 40,000 wounded since the Saudi-led coalition joined the government side against Iran-backed rebels in March 2015, according to UN.

The UN human rights agency said on Friday that at least 4,773 civilians had been killed over the past two years.

The conflict has dramatically affected food supply, with around 60 percent of Yemen's population now considered to be struggling to find enough, up 20 percent from a year ago, Luescher said.

"That is why we are so concerned about the fact that the fighting is going on, that the ports often can't operate, that bridges are being blown up, that trucks cannot go to areas," she said.

Yemen is one of four countries currently facing the risk of famine, alongside Somalia, South Sudan and Nigeria, with more than 20 million facing starvation, according to the UN.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien earlier this month described the situation in Yemen as "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world."