6 Troubling Facts About the Looming Famine in Yemen

Displacement Yemen

Updated on November 16, 2017.

See a U.N. joint statement on the humanitarian blockade in Yemen.

After more than two years of conflict and destruction, Yemen is teetering on the brink of famine. The country’s humanitarian crisis has become the largest on the planet.

WFP/Marco Frattini
A malnourished child (13 months old) eats Plumpy'Nut at the Sabaeen hospital in Sana’a, Yemen.

Right now the World Food Programme (WFP) is providing food assistance in one of the most challenging environments imaginable.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • An estimated 17 million people — or two-thirds of the country’s population — are food-insecure, which means they do not have enough food to meet their daily caloric and nutritional requirements.
  • A child in Yemen dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes, including malnutrition, diarrhea and respiratory infection. In the city of Hodeidah, where malnutrition rates are among the worst in the country, health workers have described children who are too weak to open their mouths and eat the specialized foods they are given to treat malnutrition.
  • Before the conflict escalated, Yemen imported up to 90 percent of its food. Damaged infrastructure, reduced capacity and insecurity have created significant delays for all vessels entering ports.
  • On top of the food crisis, there is now an unprecedented cholera outbreak unfolding — killing over 2,200 people, with some 900,000 suspected cases. Nutrition, sanitation and clean water are essential if the young and the weak are going to fight off this deadly waterborne disease.
  • WFP ration sizes have been reduced by half because of a lack of funding.
  • Blocking access to food for the entire population continues to be used as a weapon of war. U.N. Aid Chief Mark Lowcock warned that access constraints could result in “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims.”
WFP/Maad Fuad
Nutritional supplements, Super Cereal Plus and Plumpy'Sup, which are distributed to mothers and children at Alaghmoor Health Centre in Manakha City.

WFP’s Response

Over the course of October 2017, WFP reached 7.2 million people with food assistance. Because of financial constraints, however, only about half of these people are receiving full rations, while the rest receive smaller rations that cover 60 percent of their monthly needs.

WFP has been gradually scaling up to provide specialized nutritious foods to 1.8 million people, including children between 6 months old and 5 years old, as well as nursing and pregnant mothers. If all malnourished children had access to timely treatment and care, their full recovery would take only a few months.

In response to the cholera response led by the World Health Organization and UNICEF, WFP is using its logistical expertise to set up diarrhea treatment centers and oral rehydration centers, as well as providing IT support and transporting medical and humanitarian supplies. As of late July 2017, the agency was also providing food assistance for patients and caregivers in more than 100 treatment centers.

WFP/Fares Khoailed
WFP distributed wheat flour to the most deprived families in an area with one of the worst malnutrition rates in Yemen.

Unfortunately, WFP’s Yemen operation is only 40 percent funded as of November 2017, despite generous contributions by the U.S. government. WFP cannot continue its work without the support of people like you.

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