People of Yemen on the brink of famine

 

Sir, – Sadly, it came as no surprise to see Oxfam Ireland’s Hunger Virus briefing – including details of 10 of the world’s most extreme hunger hotspots – coincide with news reports from the UN that the people of Yemen are on the brink of famine again.

This too at a time when the UK has just announced that it is to resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite concerns that such arms will be used in Yemen, contrary to the laws of armed conflict and fuelling further hostilities that exacerbate human suffering.

Ravaged by more than five years of war, Yemen is now considered, among the multitude of crises and human suffering globally right now, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Two-thirds of the population – 20 million people – are at risk of starvation, and nearly 1.5 million families currently rely on food aid to survive.

Within this bleak picture, women and children are particularly affected, with 1.4 million pregnant or breastfeeding women and over two million children suffering from moderate or severe malnutrition.

The ongoing conflict has decimated the country’s infrastructure, restricted food imports, and led to mass unemployment.

As of July, there are over 1,300 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections in Yemen and over 300 deaths.

However, with only half of the health system functioning and limited capacity to test for the virus, these figures are likely to be grave underestimates.

The closure of borders and supply routes in response to the pandemic has also severely disrupted supply chains in a country that imports 90 per cent of its food.

This has led to food shortages and price increases, especially for basic items, such as wheat flour and sugar, as well as fuel essential to pump water from deep natural reservoirs.

Continued fighting, despite numerous calls for a ceasefire as the humanitarian situation deteriorates, has also hampered humanitarian access.

As well as this, humanitarian aid, already in decline before the crisis, is now severely stretched.

Yemen is but one example of an extreme hunger crisis. We live in a world where millions of people go to sleep hungry on a planet that produces enough food for everyone; 12,000 people could die per day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to Covid-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself.

Governments must contain the spread of this deadly disease but it is equally vital they take action to stop the pandemic killing as many – if not more – people from hunger. – Yours, etc,

COLM BYRNE,

Humanitarian

Manager,

Oxfam Ireland,

Ringsend,

Dublin 4.