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Aid workers are warning that Yemen is heading towards a humanitarian catastrophe should more emergency food not reach the millions of people already suffering chronic hunger.
Over 14 million people are struggling to access food and aid workers say the country could run out of food supplies in the next few months if more is not done. The World Food Programme is already predicting that the number of people with limited access to food could rise to 21 million.
As the Disasters Emergency Committee launches an appeal to help people in Yemen on the brink of starvation, its member charities continue to respond to the crisis – and have delivered vital food aid to an estimated 4.5 million people since the conflict began. But more needs to be done to help those in need.
“It’s something I have never witnessed before,” says Jackson Ng'ang'a Chege, Nutrition Co-ordinator for Islamic Relief in Yemen. “Many people have no food or are missing meals, and, in some cases, families are sharing food rations meant to treat their malnourished children.
“If the international community fails to act quickly to provide emergency food, not only will more people die, but future generations will suffer because of the long-term effects of chronic hunger.”
Two years of fighting has had a massive impact on people’s income – many people have not been paid for months and a huge increase in the cost of food has led to growing destitution. With markets not functioning and restrictions on food imports, it is extremely difficult for people to get food for themselves or their families.
“It’s becoming more and more desperate,” says Wael Ibrahim, CARE International's Country Director in Yemen. “Children in particular are increasingly vulnerable and it is common now to see them in villages with red-streaked hair, a tell-tale sign of nutrition deficiency. We’re seeing emaciated adults and children in acute need, unable to find enough food to survive.”
The situation has reached breaking point, according to Liny Suharlim, Country Director of ACTED, Concern Worldwide’s partner agency in Yemen. “The number of people seeking help for severe malnutrition has trebled in some areas. The increase is overwhelming,” she says.
Before the conflict, Yemen had one of the highest levels of malnutrition in the world. Now, 3.3 million children and pregnant and breastfeeding women are acutely malnourished. As Yemen experiences a severe shortage of essential medical supplies to treat the effects of malnutrition, hundreds of children are dying each day from preventable diseases such as diarrhoea and respiratory infections.
"The situation in Yemen is at risk of becoming a humanitarian catastrophe,” says Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam's Country Director in Yemen. “It’s getting worse with increasing numbers of people having less and less access to food.
“Millions of people have no money to buy food and are surviving on one meal a day. Yemen could run out of food in a few months.”
DEC member charities in Yemen are providing cash and food vouchers where local food supplies allow, and in the most difficult situations, food is being distributed to vulnerable communities. But people’s needs significantly exceed the current levels of assistance. More support is urgently needed to get more food to people, treat acute malnutrition and save lives.
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Stay up to date with developments in Yemen, the emergency response and the fundraising efforts with the DEC on twitter: www.twitter.com/decappeal; on Facebook via www.facebook.com/DisastersEmergencyCommittee or by following #YemenCrisis
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Notes to editors
- The DEC brings 13 leading UK aid charities together in times of crisis: ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK; all collectively raising money to reach those in need quickly. ActionAid UK, Plan International UK and World Vision UK are not responding in Yemen.
- To make a postal donation make cheques payable to ‘DEC’ and mail to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’.
- To donate £5 by text send the word SUPPORT to 70000. The full £5 will go to the DEC Yemen Crisis Appeal. Donors must be 16 years or over and have bill payer’s permission. Texts are free and donations will be added to the bill.