CAIRO – The war in Ukraine has dealt a fresh hammer blow to Syria’s ability to feed itself just as the country struggles to deal with levels of hunger that are up by half since 2019, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said prior to an annual donor pledging conference held in Brussels.

With years of conflict, a severe economic downturn and food prices rising relentlessly since 2020, the Ukraine crisis is exacerbating what was already an alarming food security scenario in Syria. In March, food prices increased by 24% in just one month, following an 800% increase in the last two years. This has brought food prices to their highest level since 2013.

“Saying that the situation in Syria is alarming is a huge understatement. The heart-breaking reality for millions of Syrian families is that they don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley. “The international community must recognize that not taking action now will inevitably lead to a catastrophic future for Syrians. They deserve our immediate and unconditional support.”

Some 12 million people in Syria – more than half the population – currently face acute food insecurity. That is 51% more than in 2019 and an additional 1.9 million are at risk of sliding into hunger. With basic meals becoming a luxury for millions, nutrition is becoming a serious issue.

Data from 2021 shows that one in eight children in Syria suffers from stunting while pregnant and nursing mothers show record levels of acute wasting. Both facts point to devastating health consequences for future generations.

Plagued by continual crises for over a decade, Syrian families have exhausted their ability to cope. As last resort measures, people are turning to extreme measures, such as child labor, early and forced marriages, and the removal of children from school.

Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme’s resources are under more pressure than ever, and funding is not keeping pace with the staggering needs of people across the country. Over time, the U.N. World Food Programme has been forced to progressively reduce the size of the monthly food ration across the country. A 13% ration cut is looming this month in Northwest Syria, where people will start receiving food that translates into 1,177 kilocalories, just over half of the recommended daily intake.

The U.N. World Food Programme is 27% funded until October, with a shortfall of $595 million. Additional funding is urgently needed to continue to assist millions of people across the country. Without new funding, the U.N. World Food Programme could be forced to undertake additional drastic cuts in the coming months.

“In a year of unprecedented needs, the compounding effect of the war in Ukraine requires our donors to step in and help us avoid reducing rations or the cutting the number of people we assist,” emphasized Beasley.

Support from donors has allowed the U.N. World Food Programme to help millions of vulnerable Syrians obtain food when they have needed it most. Each month the U.N. World Food Programme distributes lifesaving food to 5.6 million people, injects around $3 million into local economy through cash-based transfers (CBT), provides fortified date bars, fresh meals and/or food vouchers to schoolchildren, and provides nutritional support to women who have recently given birth or will do soon.

“If I knew my life would end up like this, I wouldn’t have had my children; I would have saved them all this suffering,” said one mother in the western Syrian city of Hama.

CAIRO – As the Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins, the soaring cost of food staples in import-dependent Middle Eastern and North African countries is creating ever greater challenges for millions of families already struggling to keep hunger at bay, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday.

Traditionally a month of festivities, when families gather over traditional foods to break their day-long fast, this year millions will be struggling to buy even the most basic foods for their families as the war in Ukraine has pushed food prices even higher than the troubling levels at the start of the year.

“We are extremely concerned about the millions of people in this region who are already struggling to access enough food because of a toxic combination of conflict, climate change and the economic aftermath of COVID-19,” said Corinne Fleischer, U.N. World Food Programme regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “People’s resilience is at a breaking point. This crisis is creating shockwaves in the food markets that touch every home in this region. No one is spared.”

The knock-on effect of the Ukraine crisis is adding further strain to the import-dependent region. The prices of wheat flour and vegetable oil – two key staples in the diet of most families – have consequently risen across the region. Cooking oil is up 36% in Yemen and 39% in Syria. Wheat flour is up 47% in Lebanon, 15% in Libya and 14% in Palestine.

Even prior to the conflict in Ukraine, inflation and increasing prices were putting basic food items beyond the reach of the most vulnerable. Food prices reached an all-time high in February 2022, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index.

The cost of a basic food basket – the minimum food needs per family per month – registered an annual increase of 351% in Lebanon, the highest in the region. It was followed by Syria, with a 97% rise, and Yemen with 81% hike. The three countries, all reliant on food imports, also reported sharp currency depreciation. Meanwhile, a drought in Syria has impacted the country’s annual wheat production.

With global prices rising, the U.N. World Food Programme’s meagre resources for operations in the region, especially in Yemen and Syria, will be under even more pressure than before. In both countries, conflict and the related economic shrinkage have left more than 29 million people in need of food assistance. The U.N. World Food Programme is supporting nearly 19 million people in the two countries.

The global food price hikes and the Ukraine conflict have resulted in the U.N. World Food Programme facing an additional cost of $71 million per month for global operations compared to 2019 – a 50% rise.

“The Ukraine crisis makes a bad funding situation worse. There are immediate humanitarian needs that demand attention. Donors have in recent years helped us provide food to millions in the region. Now the situation is critical and it’s time to be even more generous,” added Fleischer.

The U.N. World Food Programme currently has only 24% of the funding it needs in Syria and 31% of what it needs in Yemen. Due to funding constraints, the U.N. World Food Programme has already been forced to reduce food rations in both countries. Further reductions risk pushing people towards starvation.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.
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SANA’A – Desperate levels of hunger in war-torn Yemen are set to become catastrophic as the Ukraine crisis pushes up food prices and a nearly $900 million funding gap makes further cuts in food assistance ever more certain, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said today.

The number of people needing food assistance has increased to 17.4 million – an increase of 1.2 million people compared to last year – and is forecast to reach 19 million people in the second half of the year if funding is not forthcoming, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification (IPC).

“We are looking at a seismic hunger crisis if we do not step up now. Unless we receive immediate funds, hungry people will lose assistance right at the time they need it most,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley on the eve of a high-level pledging event for Yemen. “Funding for Yemen has never reached this point. We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving.”

The U.N. World Food Programme was forced to reduce food rations for 8 million people at the beginning of the year due to a shortage of funds. For now, 5 million people who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions have continued to receive a full food ration. But unless new funds arrive further reductions will be unavoidable.

The U.N. World Food Programme is currently only 11% funded and needs more than $887.9 million to provide food assistance for 13 million people over the coming six months.

Seven years of conflict, combined with the ensuing economic crisis, the depreciation of the currency and a global pandemic have already pushed food prices in 2021 to their highest levels since 2015. Food assistance has become the only source of food for millions. The Ukraine crisis is yet another blow to Yemen, driving food and fuel prices higher still.

U.N. World Food Programme food assistance has kept famine at bay in Yemen for the last few years. In 2021, U.N. World Food Programme delivered more than 1 million tons of food and over $330 million in cash and voucher assistance to families across Yemen.

Yemen is just one of several countries contributing to an unprecedented hunger challenge facing the world in in 2022. Conflict and climate shocks, compounded by COVID-19 and rising costs, are driving millions of people closer to starvation – threatening to increase migration and instability globally.

With the numbers of hungry rising globally, the U.N. World Food Programme is calling for a step-change in global support for its operations.

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The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media, @WFPYemen and @WFP_MENA

SANA’A, ADEN, ROME, NEW YORK – Yemen’s already dire hunger crisis is teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe, with 17.4 million people now in need of food assistance and a growing portion of the population coping with emergency levels of hunger, United Nations agencies have warned.

The humanitarian situation in the country is poised to get even worse between June and December 2022, with the number of people likely unable to meet their minimum food needs in Yemen possibly reaching a record 19 million people in that period, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF alerted following today’s release of a new Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis on Yemen.

At the same time, an additional 1.6 million people in the country are expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger, taking the total to 7.3 million people by the end of the year, the agencies added.

Today’s IPC report also shows a persistent high level of acute malnutrition among children under the age of five. Across Yemen, 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished, including nearly more than half a million children facing severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. In addition, around 1.3 million pregnant or nursing mothers are acutely malnourished.

“The new IPC analysis confirms the deterioration of food security in Yemen. The resounding takeaway is that we need to act now. We need to sustain the integrated humanitarian response for millions of people, including food and nutrition support, clean water, basic health care, protection and other necessities,” said the Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen David Gressly.

“Peace is required to end the decline, but we can make progress now. The parties to the conflict should lift all restrictions on trade and investment for non-sanctioned commodities. This will help lower food prices and unleash the economy, giving people the dignity of a job and a path to move away from reliance on aid,” he added.

Conflict remains the primary underlying driver of hunger in Yemen. The economic crisis – a byproduct of conflict– and the depreciation of the currency have pushed food prices in 2021 to their highest levels since 2015. The Ukraine war is likely to lead to significant import shocks, further driving food prices. Yemen depends almost entirely on food imports with 30% of its wheat imports coming from Ukraine.

“Many households in Yemen are deprived of basic food needs due to an overlap of drivers,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “FAO is working directly with farmers on the ground to foster their self-reliance through a combination of emergency and longer-term livelihood support, to build up their resilience, support local agrifood production and offset people’s reliance on imports.”

An extremely worrying new data point is that the number of people experiencing catastrophic levels of hunger — IPC Phase 5, famine conditions — is projected to increase five-fold, from 31,000 currently to 161,000 people over the second half of 2022.

“These harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it,” said U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley. “Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions.”

The U.N. World Food Programme was forced to reduce food rations for 8 million people at the beginning of the year due to a shortage of funding. With these reductions, households are receiving barely half of the U.N. World Food Programme standard daily minimum food basket. 5 million people who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions have continued to receive a full food ration.

Meanwhile, acute malnutrition among young children and mothers in Yemen has been on the rise. Among the worst hit governorates are Hajjah, Hodeida and Taizz. Children with severe acute malnutrition are at risk of death if they don’t receive therapeutic feeding assistance.

“More and more children are going to bed hungry in Yemen,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “This puts them at increased risk of physical and cognitive impairment, and even death. The plight of children in Yemen can no longer be overlooked. Lives are at stake.”

Yemen has been plagued by one of the world’s worst food crises. Parents are often unable to bring their children to treatment facilities because they cannot afford transportation or their own expenses while their children are being assisted.

Notes for editors:

About FAO: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Our goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 members, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

About WFP: The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

About UNICEF: UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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SANA’A – Yemen is spiraling into a catastrophe as humanitarian funding dries up, forcing the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to scale back food assistance to millions of hungry families, U.N. World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley warned last week as he ended a two-day visit to the conflict-ravaged country.

“We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving and, unless we receive immediate funding, in a few weeks we risk not even being able to feed the starving. This will be hell on earth,” Beasley said.

The escalation of conflict in Ukraine is likely to further increase fuel and food prices and especially grains in the import-dependent country. Food prices have more than doubled across much of Yemen over the past year, leaving more than half of the country in need of food assistance. Higher food prices will push more people into the vicious circle of hunger and dependence on humanitarian assistance.

The U.N. World Food Programme provides food assistance to 13 million people every month in Yemen, but was forced to halve food rations for 8 million people at the beginning of the year due to a shortage of funding. 5 million people who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions have continued to receive a full food ration.

But without an immediate influx of cash, more severe reductions will be unavoidable and millions of hungry people may not receive food at all. For Yemenis, the timing could not be worse. As families try to put food on the table, they are being hampered by the knock-on effects of a serious escalation in fighting alongside the continuing deterioration of the economy.

Beasley met with government officials and spent time with families in hospitals and food distribution centers in Aden, Sana’a and Amran governorates. These governorates have alarming levels of food insecurity, with Amran even showing pockets of famine in the 2020 food security assessments.

The U.N. World Food Programme chief heard first-hand about the impact of cuts in assistance on families’ lives. He spoke to a mother caring for her severely malnourished child in an Amran hospital. She said she was displaced from Hajjah on the frontlines and could have stayed in her home had she received food for her children. Instead, she sold her furniture and sheep and took her children in search of food and safety.

“It has been less than a year since I was in Yemen and it is worse than anyone can possibly imagine. Yemen has come full circle since 2018 when we had to fight our way back from the brink of famine but the risk today is more real than ever,” said Beasley. “And just when you think it can’t get any worse, the world wakes up to a conflict in Ukraine that is likely to cause economic deterioration around the world especially for countries like Yemen, dependent on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia. Prices will go up compounding an already terrible situation.”

The U.N. World Food Programme needs $800 million in the next six months to provide full assistance to the 13 million people it has been assisting until now.

Last year, the U.N. World Food Programme delivered more than 1 million tons of food and over $330 million in cash and voucher assistance to families across Yemen.

#                 #                   #

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

Follow us on Twitter @WFPUSA, @wfp_media, @WFPYemen and @WFP_MENA

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