Fighters in the Yemen war and their international backers are wilfully pushing the country to the brink of famine, Oxfam warned today, on the two year anniversary of the escalation of the war (26 March).
Nearly 7 million people have been pushed to the brink of starvation and 70 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian aid, in what was already the Middle East’s poorest country.
Oxfam is calling for urgent action on two fronts: an immediate resumption of the peace process and for governments and other donors to provide the additional US$2.1 billion the UN says is needed for the humanitarian response. The appeal is only 7 per cent funded and so far the Australian Government has provided no direct funding to the humanitarian response since the conflict flared up two years ago.
Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said: “If the parties to the conflict – and those fuelling it with arm sales – continue to ignore Yemen’s food crisis, they will be responsible for a famine.
“The people of Yemen are being starved to death and may not survive the situation much longer. A fully funded humanitarian response is vital to prevent countless people dying needlessly, but ultimately what Yemenis need is an end to the fighting.
“All sides to the conflict must understand that famine is the real enemy of Yemen. Preventing it must take priority over any side’s military aims. The world cannot wait for famine to be declared in Yemen – it will be too late.”
Airstrikes and fighting have killed more than 7,600 people, including over 4,600 civilians, forced more than 3 million people from their homes and left 18.8 million people – 70 per cent of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance, the greatest number in any country in the world.
Ports, roads and bridges, along with warehouses, farms and markets, have been regularly destroyed by the Saudi-led coalition, draining the country’s food stocks. The Houthi led authority is delaying the delivery of life-saving relief, and sometimes detaining aid workers. This, coupled with a flattened economy, has created a massive hunger crisis and left 6.8 million people on the brink of famine.
“Fighting on Yemen’s west coast escalated last month, especially around Al-Hudaydah and Mocha ports, which risks cutting off vital supplies to millions of people,” Mr Sajid said. “In a worst-case scenario where food imports drop substantially or where conflict prevents supplies being moved around the country, famine is possible.”
Oxfam Australia’s humanitarian policy advisor Nicole Bieske said a blockade had been imposed on Yemen, preventing food coming into the country. While this had been partially eased, new restrictions on shipping and the destruction of many port facilities were punishing the Yemeni population, and the country’s food supplies were running critically low.
An Oxfam food survey of 2,000 families who have been forced to flee their homes in north-west Yemen between November and December 2016 found that 85 per cent of people were going hungry.
In order to save the lives of millions of starving people, Oxfam is urging the United Nations Secretary General to pressure all parties to the conflict to resume peace talks, to reach a negotiated peace agreement and improve the economic situation in the country.
Oxfam is calling for all land, sea and air routes to Yemen to remain open and for attacks targeting military objects related to supply routes and infrastructure to not disproportionately affect civilians in accordance with International Humanitarian Law.
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Donations to support Oxfam’s emergency responses in Yemen and around the world can be made online at oxfam.org.au/yemen or by calling 1800 034 034.
Notes to editors:
- Photos and stories from Yemen are also available.
- Oxfam has reached more than a million people in eight governorates of Yemen with water and sanitation services, cash assistance, food vouchers and other essential aid since July 2015.
- For more information on the food security situation in Yemen, go to Yemen: IPC Analysis – Acute Food Insecurity Current Situation Overview – March 2017