Half of Yemen’s population risk starvation, warns UN

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (Ipc), published yesterday. According to experts, "time is running out" to avert "mass hunger". For tens of thousands of people, the situation is "catastrophic" and will get worse next year. FAO Director General: War is the engine of food insecurity.

Sana’a (AsiaNews / Agencies) - In many parts of Yemen, an Arab nation already hit by a devastating humanitarian crisis, there are now conditions comparable to those of famine and about half the population experiences high levels of food insecurity.

This is contained in the results of a study conducted by United Nations experts and published yesterday, according to which "time is running out" to avert "mass starvation" while 100 thousand children risk death from severe malnutrition.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), an analysis prepared by the UN, 45% of the Yemeni population faces "high levels" of food insecurity. 33% of these are in "crisis" conditions, 12% live in an "emergency" situation, while for 16,500 the picture is "catastrophic", the worst level in the special IPC ranking.

The experts are also worried about the forecasts for next year, in which the situation is set to worsen. Between January and June 2021, 54% of the inhabitants of Yemen (about 16.2 million people) are in serious danger of experiencing high levels of food insecurity. Those living in catastrophic conditions will increase to 47 thousand.

"These alarming numbers must be a wake-up call to the world,” said David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.’s World Food Programme (WFP). Conditions appear critical both in the southern sector of the country, controlled by the internationally recognized government, and in the northern part - where the capital Sana’a is located - in the hands of the Houthi rebels.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 as an internal conflict between pro-Saudi government and Shiite Houthi rebels close to Iran. It degenerated in March 2015 with the intervention of the Arab coalition led by Riyadh and has registered over 10 thousand dead and 55 thousand injured. Independent bodies set the toll (between January 2016 and the end of July 2018) at about 57 thousand deaths.

For the UN the conflict has triggered "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world", about 24 million Yemenis (80% of the population) urgently need humanitarian assistance.  The coronavirus pandemic has had even more devastating impact with a healthcare system that has collapsed. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation and experts say children will suffer the consequences for the next 20 years. The restrictions imposed to curb the coronavirus have triggered a further tightening on aid, which is compounded by floods, locust invasions and a gradual depletion of international aid.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said the primary driver of food insecurity is the conflict, which must cease. “We need to act immediately,” said Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director Mohamed Abdi. “Waiting for a famine declaration to act will condemn hundreds of thousands of people to death.