Hunger in Yemen
The devastation of the Yemeni Civil War is a widely-known tragedy. The mounting casualties and damage to Yemen’s supporting infrastructures continue to put the lives of Yemeni civilians in jeopardy. Another devastating effect, however, is increased food security and hunger in Yemen. According to estimates in 2018, there were 20.2 million people in Yemen who faced a critical food shortage.

The Yemeni Civil War

Hunger in Yemen has its root in the Yemeni Civil war, which is entering its fifth year in 2020. What makes the Yemeni Civil war notable is the sheer amount of civilian casualties it has caused. Both the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition (SELC) and the Houthis seem to carry out artillery strikes and airstrikes with little regard to civilian casualties.

According to the International Rescue Committee’s 2019 report, an estimated 100,000 civilians died from the current conflict, 42 of whom were aid workers. The numerous air and artillery bombardment from the SELC and Houthi insurgency further add to the suffering of Yemeni civilians. In addition, explosive weaponry hit over 500 civilian homes in only July of 2019. These airstrikes and artillery bombardments threaten Yemeni civilians’ well-being when they directly target the agricultural sectors.

Starvation as a War Tactic

On top of their attack jets and precision munitions, SELC is using starvation as a weapon against the Houthis. Additionally, multiple reports suggest that airstrikes in Yemen are sometimes intentionally aimed at civilian agricultural sectors. The targets of these airstrikes include farms, fishing boats and factories that supply food and basic-goods to the civilians of Yemen. According to the Yemeni Ministry of Agriculture, there were at least 10,000 SELC airstrikes that struck farms and 800 that struck local food markets. In addition, there were 450 airstrikes that hit silos and other food storage facilities.

In addition, the SELC imposed its blockade of Yemeni airports, seaports and land ports since November of 2017. This blocked out 500,000 metric tons of food and fuel, and 1,476 metric tons of foreign aid. As a result, this worsens the condition of hunger in Yemen because Yemen already imports about 70 percent of their food.

Malnourishment in Yemen

These factors all contribute to the current humanitarian crisis in Yemen. By 2017, two years after the escalation of the conflict, an estimated 21.7 million people needed humanitarian assistance. Yemeni children are especially in danger of malnutrition. UNICEF’s 2017 estimate reported that nearly 2.2 million Yemeni children were acutely malnourished. There are a variety of negative consequences of malnourishment, including decreased immunity to diseases and impediments to physical development.

The call to end conflict and hunger in Yemen is certainly loud. In 2019, an article from the Independent stated that if the current conflict lasts for another 5 years, it will cost the international community an estimated $29 billion in humanitarian funding to the country. Moreover, there are signs that an end to the conflict is close. In October 2019, the Houthi offered to stop aiming missile and drone attacks at Saudi Arabia if the SELC would do the same. In addition, both SELC and the Houthi agreed to a nationwide ceasefire due to the current COVID-19 outbreak.

Organizations Fighting Hunger in Yemen

Many international organizations are working to alleviate hunger in Yemen. Action Against Hunger helps the malnourished in Yemen through its comprehensive health programs. The organization has reached 224,651 people with their nutrition and health programs, as well as 395,534 with their sanitation and hygiene programs and 102,666 with their food security and livelihood programs.

UNICEF is also working hard to treat child malnourishment. In 2016, UNICEF reported that they had treated 215,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition. Additionally, they provided vitamin supplements to more than 4 million children in Yemen.


Hunger in Yemen is one of the most significant humanitarian crises of our time. The Yemeni Civil War is the primary cause of this crisis, and continued fighting will only exacerbate the suffering of Yemeni citizens. However, the work being done by humanitarian organizations to alleviate hunger is having a real impact. These efforts, in addition to continued efforts toward peace, are crucial to decreasing hunger in Yemen.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Food Crisis in Yemen
Located at the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula in Western Asia, Yemen is home to 20 million people that are food insecure.

The Famine Early Warning System Network has determined that the country is in a crisis phase and that the most vulnerable families could enter into a catastrophe phase.

Recent war and conflicts have exaggerated the food crisis in Yemen and if nothing is done, the U.N. warns that it could become a famine.

Factors Affecting Food Crisis in Yemen

One factor that prevents access to food in the country is the temporary hold on operations at main ports that supply a large percentage of Yemen with food due to the conflict. The country imports around 90 percent of its food and with main ports shut down due to conflict, these vital goods cannot reach the people who need them.

However, some humanitarian aid comes through these ports and that aid is vital to preventing starvation and death for at-risk regions who rely on ports like Al Huddayah and Salif.

Another factor is the decrease in Yemen’s currency value- Yemeni rial (YER). As its value decreases prices for basic needs like food rise, leaving those without financial means to go hungry.

The Yemeni rial value dropped by half between July and October and food prices have increased steadily. This leaves already impoverished households unable to provide food for their families.

This financial situation poses even more of a danger than the inability to access ports because even if imports were being let into Yemen, many would be unable to afford them.

As a result of these issues, more than 2 million people have been displaced and 14 million are in desperate need of food.

Relief In Yemen

There are high rates of malnutrition among children due to the food crisis in Yemen. Around 3 million children under the age of 5, as well as nursing or pregnant women, are at risk of malnutrition. UNICEF has recently revised their humanitarian response plan regarding Yemen and raised its required funding from $378 million to $424 million.

The organization has treated 195,000 children with severe acute malnutrition since September 2018 and plans to reach a total of 276,000 children at the end of the year.

FAO and Mercy Corps

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has stated that 190 regions in Yemen are experiencing pre-famine conditions. FAO plans to focus their efforts on improving agriculture production to relieve the pressure of food insecurity in the country.

Their 2018-2020 plan of action for the country includes focusing on famine-risk regions by providing emergency relief and then teaching sustainable farming and improving planning for future famine events.

Mercy Corps is another group focused on combating the food crisis in Yemen. They focus on regions that have been severely overwhelmed by violence.

They have provided food vouchers to impoverished household and treat severely malnourished children. The organization not only focuses on providing food but also clean water, sanitation, disease prevention and helps sesame farmers improve their farming techniques.

Last year, they reached 3.7 million people with their assistance. Even though conflict sometimes disrupts their efforts, they are more than ever determined to help the people.

Yemen is one of the Middle East’s poorest countries and the citizens of the country desperately need assistance if they are going to survive this awful food crisis.

Focusing on access, financial relief and ending the conflict are vital keys to ending the food crisis in Yemen. Most of all, these people are suffering and need urgent action due to the dire instability of the situation.

– Olivia Halliburton

Photo: Flickr