One every 75 second 

What is famine? 

When I think of amine I imagine the Middle Ages and people crawling on the muddy streets in hungry delirium or war-torn cities and destroyed fields where people eat rats to survive. Such images are long gone, there is no more shortage of food in the 21st century, there is however still a place for a famine - man-made

Since last year international humanitarian groups have been warning that due to Covid pandemics developed countries have cut their humanitarian financing and with that support to life-sustaining programs all over the world. In some regions, such cuts meant death for hungry kids. 

Cutting aid is a death sentence,” the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres.

Only two famines have been officially declared by the United Nations in the past 20 years, in Somalia and South Sudan.  Yemen is the country on the borderline, already for the second time in the last three years. 

In 2018 the famine in Yemen was averted by large donations from the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. This influx of foreign aid helped to keep people from dying for some time but didn’t solve underlying problems. And recently crisis has worsened, refueled by the conflict and world pandemic. When developed countries focused on saving their own economies, withdrew their pledges for emergency assistance, Yemen fell short again and hunger increased.  

“We are like refugees in other people’s home,” she said. “You can only appreciate whatever is provided.”

At the U.N. pledging conference in March, this year participating countries committed less than half of the expected money, which means half of the people won’t get their food assistance. The UN is warning that in Yemen the half of the population relies entirely on humanitarian aid to survive.

The World Food Program (WFP) estimates that "more than 16 million people are now facing critical levels of hunger, or worse".

"We are heading straight for the biggest famine in modern history, about 400,000 children could die [of hunger] in Yemen this year without urgent intervention, or one every 75 seconds. "

One of the poorest countries in the region - Yemen-  is suffering for years from the war and its consequences: millions of people have been driven from their homes and struggle daily to find food.

Such a huge humanitarian crisis is the result of the 6 years of fighting between Saudi-backed government forces and Ansar Allah (Houthis) rebel forces. Not only the fighting but also the competing economic regulations between the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah-controlled areas bringing continuous depreciation of the Yemeni currency riyal, which reduces already very low households purchasing power.

An air and sea blockade by the Saudi-led coalition on Houthi-controlled territory has restricted imports of vital goods like fuel, food and medicine. On top of that this closure impedes the delivery of humanitarian aid for the people who heavily rely on it. The coalition has kept Sana’a international airport shut to commercial flights since 2016.

According to some predictions, if the current situation continues driving inflation up, it will, even more, affect people’s ability to afford food and other basic commodities. The escalation of the conflict since the beginning of February in Marib - the main source of oil and liquefied gas in Yemen - could significantly disrupt oil and gas facilities and extraction operations, affecting GoY revenues and currency stability.

According to International Rescue Committee estimation, the prices of basic goods more than doubled since the beginning of the war:  133% price rise in wheat flour, 96% price rise in vegetable oil, and a 164% price rise in rice. To survive in the beginning people who had some valuable assets like camels or lands were selling them to get money for food. Those who had nothing relied on the help of family and neighbors. 

Since then almost 70% of people reported having had reduced the number of meals per day and three in five Yemenis, surveyed by the IRC, could not afford basic items.

Spreading hunger brings more health problems. Some aid organizations warn that “more people could end up dying from illnesses exacerbated by hunger than from the war itself.”

With the health system almost totally ruined by fighting, Yemen isn’t able to deal with increasing emergency situations, especially among children. As reported by the Yemeni human rights organization Mwatana, there were repeated attacks impacting hospitals, health facilities, and medical staff by Saudi/UAE-led coalition and Ansar Allah.

The big countries say they are fighting each other in Yemen,” Mr. Hajaji said. “But it feels to us like they are fighting the poor people.”

For example, the Harf Sufian Rural Hospital, about 85 miles north of Sana receives as many as 40 malnutrition cases per month, but it has only six beds for malnourished children and almost no intensive care unit for children who arrive there in critical condition.

The only treatment they have for dying children is provided by aid organizations. They also fully rely on aid for fuel that powers incubators for premature newborns. Since the aid cuts this year the clinic is almost running out of fuel. The medical staff becomes more and more helpless. “We can’t help but ask God for support.”

What to do?

  • Help Doctors Without Borders, who operate in 13 hospitals and health centers around the country including the least accessible areas held by the Houthis.

  • Support Save the Children by spreading the word about the crisis that affected 93% of children in the country. The organization provides life-saving assistance to children, treating children under five suffering from malnutrition, and supporting health facilities.

  • Donate to Baitulmaal AHED, this NGO is mainly providing food to people in urgent need.

  • Support Zakat Foundation works through partnerships to prevent starvation not only by disseminating food packages but also by training local farmers that could really make a long-term difference.

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