The World Food Program (WFP), the UN’s global agency providing food assistance to those in need, announced in a statement on Thursday, December 22, that it will reduce food aid to Yemen from January 2022 due to acute shortage of funds. The WFP has been providing food aid for 13 million Yemenis until now. From January, it will provide reduced food aid to eight million people while five million will continue to receive full rations. As the currently available resources will be directed towards those in “the most critical state,” the agency has warned that around five million people will be at grave risk of starvation and famine.
WFP’s regional director, Corinne Fleischer, in a statement on Wednesday said, “Every time we reduce the amount of food, we know that more people who are already hungry and food insecure will join the ranks of the millions who are starving. But desperate times call for desperate measures and we have to stretch our limited resources and prioritize, focusing on people who are in the most critical state.” She urged the international community to increase their donations to meet the shortfall, saying that “the Yemeni people are now more vulnerable than ever, reeling from relentless conflict and the deepening economic crisis that has pushed millions into destitution. WFP food stocks in Yemen are running dangerously low at a time when budgets for humanitarian crises around the world are stretched to the limit. We desperately need donors, who were so generous in the past, to work with us to avoid this looming hunger catastrophe.”
According to reports, the WFP is currently facing a shortage of USD 813 million required to continue food assistance to millions of Yemenis until May 2022. It requires further USD 1.97 billion to carry on its food program throughout 2022. In March this year, the agency had appealed for USD 3.85 billion funding from the international community but secured only USD 1.7 billion at a donor conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland, with the UN calling it a ‘death sentence’ for Yemenis. In September, WFP estimated that 16 million Yemenis were “marching towards starvation.”
War-ravaged and impoverished Yemen has been in the grips of a devastating humanitarian crisis for several years now following the outbreak of the civil war in 2014 when Houthis overthrew the Western and Saudi-backed Yemeni government and took control of capital Sanaa and the majority of the north of the country. In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition militarily intervened in the country against the Houthis.
The UN has estimated that 377,000 Yemenis have lost their lives due to war, disease, famine and shortage of essential items like medicines, calling it “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” The long-running fighting between the warring sides continues to aggravate the situation. Tens of millions of Yemenis have been internally displaced. Around 24 million Yemenis, about 80% of the total population of 30 million, are dependent on international humanitarian aid for survival. According to UNICEF, the UN’s global agency for children, approximately 2.3 million children in Yemen are currently suffering from acute malnutrition, with roughly 400,000 children facing life-threatening malnutrition in the near future. The humanitarian situation is set to worsen as officials in Sanaa announced that due to the Saudi airstrikes on Sanaa airport, several UN flights carrying aid have either been cancelled or postponed.