Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the UN World Food Programme, issued her stark warning after a three-day visit to Yemen. The country’s civil war and conflict with neighbouring Gulf states has driven almost 13 million people, around half the population, into food insecurity, following an almost total collapse of the country’s food production infrastructure.
“Right now, the conflict-driven convergence between the lack of staple food, access to clean water, and a diminished fuel supply create the dawn of a perfect storm for the most vulnerable Yemeni people,” said Cousin.
“The disruption in the commercial food sector creates significant reductions in imports which causes an inflationary effect on market prices for food and other basic commodities. As a result, we are starting to see a double effect of the conflict as even the people who could previously afford to meet their food needs are today unable to buy food,” she added.
WFP is preparing to launch a major new emergency operation in Yemen next month, at an estimated cost of US$320m. The agency’s efforts in the country are being funded by GCC states Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which are also involved in the armed conflict, as well as the European Commission, the UK, and the USA.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation is also seeking funds for a relief operation, to support Yemeni farmers and other food producers. The agency aims to raise US$19m, but has only received donations of US$4.8m as of the end of last month.
“The crisis has severely disrupted livelihoods in the agriculture sector, which employs over 50% of Yemen’s workforce and is the main source of livelihood for two-thirds of the population. The conflict has reduced field activities, disrupted exports and damaged greenhouses – a major source of vegetable production in the northwest,” said an FAO report on the situation in Yemen, published in late July.
“Power outages and lack of fuel are affecting the storage and transport of perishable produce. High fuel prices are also causing irrigation, transport and marketing costs to soar, leaving farmers with higher production costs than profits. The average price of live animals has dropped by 30-50% for producers due to the obstruction of livestock trade inside Yemen and to neighbouring countries. Fishing is also highly affected by insecurity, lack of fuel and electricity which is causing spoilage, and market disruption (internal and exports),” added the report.