People in Yemen are struggling to survive on dirty water and meagre portions of bread three years after a Saudi-led coalition carried out its first airstrike on the country in its war with the Houthis, Oxfam said today.
Families in remote areas in the north west of the country told Oxfam they could only afford half a bag of wheat a month and had to walk three kilometres a few times a day to fetch untreated water from a well. Several women told Oxfam they were struggling to make ends meet and had no money for supplies after their husbands had been killed in the conflict.
Since the war started the cost of food has skyrocketed. Rice is up 131 per cent, beans 92 per cent, vegetable oil 86 per cent and flour for making bread up 54 per cent. Over the same period the number of people going hungry increased by 68 per cent to almost 18 million people.
Colette Fearon, Oxfam’s Deputy Humanitarian Director, said more than three million people had been forced to flee their homes, more than 5,500 civilians had been killed and 2,000 more had died of cholera in a country where half of the health facilities were no longer functioning because of the conflict.
“Three years on from the eruption of this conflict, Yemen is teetering on the brink of famine. Families are facing a daily struggle just to get hold of the bare essentials like food and water,” Ms Fearon said.
“Three years of war is three years too many. Too many bombs have been dropped and shells fired, too many people have gone hungry, too many lives have been lost. All sides need to end this war. The appointment of a new UN envoy to Yemen is a chance to push for a ceasefire and put the country on the road to a lasting peace.”
Despite peace talks in 2016, it appears that parties to the conflict have continued to pursue a military strategy. The appointment last month of Martin Griffiths as the new UN envoy to Yemen, and recent UN Security Council calls for moves towards a ceasefire and to ensure essential goods are given free passage, present an opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate efforts to achieve peace.
Oxfam is working across Yemen, trucking water and providing cash for people to buy food. The organisation has helped more than 2.8 million people since July 2015. But the closure of sea and air ports has hampered efforts to get food, water, fuel and medicines to all those who need them.
With 22 million people in need of aid across the country, Yemen is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak since records began, with over a million suspected cases.
Oxfam Australia’s Humanitarian Policy Advisor Dr Nicole Bieske said the situation in Yemen was critical and more aid was needed from governments to support people in need of water and food.
“The $20 million of humanitarian funding the Australian Government provided for Yemen last year was a welcome start. The Australian Government needs to continue to closely monitor the crisis, be prepared to commit additional funding and continue to use diplomatic channels to push for peace,” Dr Bieske said.
For interviews with Oxfam staff in Yemen and other locations, or more information, please contact Dylan Quinnell on 0450 668 350 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
Footage, photos and quotes from Yemenis Oxfam has spoken to are available: https://oxfam.app.box.com/v/Yemen3YearMoment/folder/47523372201