Nestled between Saudi Arabia and Oman, Yemen was declared to be in a state of emergency on March 13, 2017, by the World Food Program. The World Health Organization reports that acute shortages of clean water and sanitation face eight million people. Furthermore, the U.N. International Children’s Emergency Fund says, “There are 2.2 million children in Yemen at risk of acute malnutrition and 462,000 severely and acutely malnourished.”
Millions of people live on the fringe of starvation in Africa as a result of drought, crop failure, population imbalance, government policies and war. The ongoing famine in Yemen affects 17 million people today, roughly 70 percent of its population.
According to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), “The situation in Yemen is characterized by widespread insecurity, large-scale displacement, civil strife, political instability, chronic food shortages, a breakdown of social services, endemic poverty, and refugee influxes.”
Here are ten key components of the situation that you should know:
- According to the OCHA, Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East and North Africa. A lack of financial resources and infrastructure have created an economy that is unable to support growing conflicts between opposing political factions. The situation has escalated and resulted in the current famine in Yemen.
- With a shortage of funding and deep-rooted poverty, more than 50 percent of families in the country are buying food on credit. The situation has accentuated the need for a global humanitarian response in terms of providing medicine and food. These needs are especially paramount for women and children, who represent the most vulnerable of a population during a period of famine or conflict.
- A lack of access to food and nutritional resources is not a new situation in Yemen. A locust infestation in the country last April posed a viable threat to food security that has not abated.
- The famine in Yemen is due in part to internal conflict between a coalition that is loyal to the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and the Houthi rebel movement. The conflict has been exacerbated due to an air campaign by Saudi Arabia, with its goal being to restore the Hadi government.
- In response to the famine in Yemen, various nations and organizations have contributed resources to mitigate its impact, as well as rebuild its infrastructure and provide medical supplies. The U.N. responded to the crisis with a conference in Geneva in April. Unfortunately, only 15 percent of the $2.1 billion goal was pledged to help resolve the famine in Yemen.
- In addition, U.N. aid chief Stephan O’Brien has urged member countries to keep the port of Hodeidah open. The port is the location for the reception of incoming food imports.
- The United States government has also responded to the famine in Yemen, with President Donald Trump reiterating his commitment to fighting global famine during his May visit to the Vatican. Although relief funds from the U.S. face severe cuts for the next fiscal year, the momentum has begun for a more proactive global relief program.
- One of the strongest responses has been initiated by the WHO, which launched the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2017. To achieve success, the plan requires $326 million from a variety of health partners, including $126 million from the U.S. Targeted beneficiaries of the funding will include women and children.
- The WHO reported that it had coordinated the operation of 406 general health and nutrition teams in 266 Yemeni districts in 2016, with funding coming from a variety of donors: Japan, the League of Arab States, the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund, the United Arab Emirates, the UNOCHA Common Humanitarian Fund and the U.S.
- There have also been responses to the famine from private organizations and individuals. Muslim Aid is running a campaign to raise donations for water and medical aid to Yemen.
Because the famine in Yemen has yet to abate, opportunities remain for humanitarian organizations, governments and private individuals to respond with food products, medicine and financial assistance. The momentum has already begun through the efforts of organizations like WHO and Muslim Aid, and through the contributions of private donors.
– Hannah Pickering