Equivalent of a quarter of Australia’s population at risk of famine in Yemen

Emergencies, General, Humanitarian Advocacy, Media Releases, News article written on the 24 Mar 2016

The equivalent of more than a quarter of Australia’s population is on the brink of starvation in Yemen after a year of devastating conflict, Oxfam said today.

The scarcity of food caused by the fighting compounded by a looming financial crisis, risks pushing millions into famine.

Oxfam Australia Humanitarian Advocacy Lead Nicole Bieske said the war had crippled the country’s ability to produce and transport food to its people.

“Air strikes have destroyed poultry farms, including a chicken hatchery with 2.5 million hatching eggs, and fishing boats have also been targeted, bringing the fishing industry to a halt,” Ms Bieske said.

“Now a financial crisis is threatening further damage.

“The equivalent of more than a quarter of Australia’s population is on the brink of starvation in Yemen and the majority will not be able to withstand the rising prices for food if importers are unable to trade due to a crippled financial system.”

The destruction of farms and markets, barriers to commercial imports and a long-running fuel crisis have caused a drop in agricultural production, a scarcity of supplies and exorbitant food prices. Airstrikes have also hit main supply routes, warehouses holding food aid and vehicles carrying humanitarian supplies, exacerbating the food crisis.

With the conflict continuing into a second year, international banks are more and more reluctant to provide credit to importers, meaning traders may have to halt shipments. At the same time the Central Bank of Yemen is struggling to stabilise prices in the food market. For a country that imports 90 percent of its food, this could result in price hikes hitting a quarter of the population, already on the edge of starvation.

Ms Bieske said limited access to the country meant that a year after the escalation of the conflict few people in Australia were aware of the crisis. But airstrikes, fighting and indiscriminate shelling so far have killed more than 6,100 people, forced 2.4 million people from their homes, and left 21.2 million – 82 percent of the population – in dire need of humanitarian aid.

“A brutal conflict on top of an existing crisis, a catastrophe on top of catastrophe, has created one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the world today – yet most people are unaware of it,” Ms Bieske said.

“Men, women and children are caught between reckless bombing from the sky and indiscriminate shelling on the ground, with nowhere to hide.

“Australia must wake up to the scale of this crisis and give humanitarian aid, and push the warring parties to allow people access to life-saving food, water.

Oxfam has reached more than 730,000 people with clean water, food vouchers, hygiene kits and other essential aid in the north and south of Yemen since March 2015.

For interviews, photos or stories from Yemen, or more information, please contact Angus Hohenboken on 0428 367 318 or angush@oxfam.org.au