Blockade and violence in Yemen Escalates

Photo credit: Oxfam GB/International
Photo credit: Oxfam GB/International

Since the start of the conflict, nearly 25,000 additional people are going hungry each day in Yemen as the blockade and fighting restrict food, fuel and other vital supplies, Oxfam warned.

July 28, 2015

Since the start of the conflict, nearly 25,000 additional people are going hungry each day in Yemen as the blockade and fighting restrict food, fuel and other vital supplies, Oxfam warned.

One in two people – nearly 13 million people – are now struggling to find enough to eat, and half of them are on the brink of starvation.  This is an increase of 2.3 million people since the escalation in fighting and beginning of the blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition in March 2015. In a country that has historically faced food shortages, this is the highest ever recorded number of people living in hunger.

Philippe Clerc, Oxfam Country Director in Yemen said: “Since the start of the conflict every day that goes by without a ceasefire and full resumption of imports sees nearly 25,000 additional people going hungry in Yemen. As the warring parties continue to ignore calls for a ceasefire, the average family in Yemen is left wondering when their next meal will be – if they survive the bombs, they’re now running out of food. “
Saada governorate in the north is the most affected in the country: nearly 80 percent of its people are going hungry, 50 percent at a critical level.

The scarcity of food is pushing prices beyond the reach of millions - many have been without income for months now. Data collected through Oxfam assessments in Hajjah governorate show that families displaced by the conflict have few possessions, mainly livestock that they are forced to sell at prices that are well below the market value to buy food and other basic needs. This is a tell-tale sign that people are starting to face a serious food crisis.

During interviews with displaced families in Sanaa, 60 percent of participants told Oxfam that they cope with the lack of food and cash by begging, polishing shoes and hoping for charity. The only source of food for people at two of the three surveyed locations was one cooked meal a day provided by a local organisation.

Availability of food in the south-western governorates is alarmingly low, in particular, Aden, Abyan, Ad-daleh, Lahj, and Shabwa, based on the World Food Programme’s weekly market monitoring reports. This is largely due to the difficulties of moving food supplies through conflict areas.

Before the recent violence, Yemen had the second highest malnutrition rate in the world. Since March, only 20 percent of domestic food needs have entered the country* and an additional 650,000 children, pregnant and lactating mothers have become malnourished bringing the number up to a staggering 1.5 million.

Clerc added: “After failed peace negotiations, a UN Security Council resolution that does little to bring an end to the conflict, and failed humanitarian pauses, it is imperative - now, more than ever -  that the Security Council and the UN find a way to bring the warring parties to a negotiated peace. At the same time, the US, UK and Iran should use their influence over warring parties to bring about an end to the conflict. Should the world continue to turn a blind eye to the suffering of over 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, it is tantamount to complicity in their suffering.”

Notes to Editors:

  • Over a three month period from March 26 (the beginning of the airstrikes and the blockade) – June 26, 2015, the number of people with limited access to food increased by a staggering 2.3 million people from 10.6 to 12.9; the equivalent of nearly 25,000 extra people a day.

Sources:

PDF icon oxfam_food_security_-_media_brief.pdf

OCHA Humanitarian Bulletin: Yemen, Issue 36, 10 March, 2015
OCHA Yemen: Humanitarian Catastrophe, Situation Report, No.13, 30 June, 2015

  • FAO defines food insecurity and vulnerability as follows (FIVIMS, 2004): Food security: individuals in a household have (at all times) physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food insecurity: individuals are undernourished as a result of their lack of access to adequate food and/or inadequate food utilization. This includes those whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie requirements as well as those with energy or nutrient deficiencies resulting from inadequate or unbalanced diets.
  • Yemen is one of the least self-sufficient countries in the world, importing up to 90 percent of the food it consumes. Yemen does not have the ability to produce the crop products they currently consume, considering current water and land productivities as well as available (i.e. unused) water and productive land.

Source: Marianela Fader, Dieter Gerten, Michael Krause, Wolfgang Lucht, and Wolfgang Cramer, ‘Spatial decoupling of agricultural production and consumption: quantifying dependences of countries on food imports due to domestic land and water constraints’, Environmental Research Letters, IOP Publishing, 26 March 2013

  • Before the recent violence, Yemen had the second highest malnutrition rate in the world.

Source: WFP, Comprehensive Food Security Survey: Yemen, November 2014,

  • Since March, an additional 650,000 children, pregnant and lactating mothers have become malnourished bringing the number up to a staggering 1.5 million.

Source: Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview 2015 (Revision) June 2015,

  • During a rapid assessment conducted by Oxfam in June 2015, information was collected through 6 focus group discussions that included 11 people in Amran district and 20 people in Hamir District of Amran Governorate and 20 people in Abs district of Hodeidah. Fifty per cent of the participants were women. In Amran and Hodeidah, people mentioned that main sources of protein such as chicken, yogurt and milk, were becoming scarce.  Availability of food in the south-western governorates is critically low, in particular, Aden, Abyan, Addaleh, Lahj, and Shabwa based on the WFP weekly market monitoring. In Sanaa, communities told Oxfam that wheat flour, wheat grain and sugar had become the hardest food items to find.
  • During interviews with displaced families in Sanaa, 60 percent of participants told Oxfam that they cope with the lack of food and cash through begging, shoe polishing and hoping for charity. The only source of food for two of the three locations was one cooked meal a day from a local organisation – Mawada Foundation.
  • Saada is the most food insecure governorate in Yemen, 80 percent of its residents cannot find enough to eat, 20 percent are severely food insecure.

Source: IPC Indicative Acute Food Insecurity Situation Overview in Yemen, June 2015, Yemen Food Security Information Systems Development Programme

*Correction issued August 5th 2015: During editing, some language was erroneously left out, and had to be re-added to clarify that 20% of domestic food needs were entering certain parts of the country based on Oxfam and WFP surveys of local markets in Aden, Lahj, and Hajja.