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Yemen famine warning

August 20, 2015

The United Nation's World Food Programme says the conflict in Yemen has brought the country to the brink of famine. One in five Yemenis is in desperate need of aid.

Jemen Kinder Hunger
Image: Reuters/K. Abdullah

The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that nearly 13 million people in Yemen lack proper access to food, with 6 million, or one in five of the country's population, in urgent need of assistance. Up to 21 million people in total are in need of assistance.

WFP Director Ertharin Cousin, who was in Yemen for three days, says "all the signs of famine" were unfolding in Yemen and that children, in particular, were at risk of irreversible harm.

The UN has raised Yemen to its highest level humanitarian crises, alongside South Sudan, Syria and Iraq. Even in peacetime, Yemen needs to import food to survive and is the Arab World's poorest country.

Fighting around major ports is making access to people in need difficult. "If we do not receive the additional access that is required to meet the needs of those who are affected by this ongoing conflict…and if we do not see increased donor support, we are facing the perfect storm in Yemen," she told reporters in Cairo.

Meanwhile, in a separate report, the UN's Children's Fund (UNICEF) says an average of eight children are killed every day in Yemen, with nearly 400 killed and 600 wounded since the conflict began some four months ago.

According to UNICEF, 80 percent of those under 18 are in need of urgent assistance. But UNICEF's operation in Yemen is one of its most under-funded, the agency warned, with only 16 percent of its funding appeal met.

Both reports came a day after an alliance led by Saudi Arabia bombed the port city of Hodeida, the main access point for aid to the north of the country, putting it out of action.

Yemen's conflict pits Shiite Houthi rebels (who are allied with Iran) and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The fighting intensified in March when Houthi rebels advanced on the southern port of Aden, forcing Hadi to flee the country and prompting the Saudi-led campaign.

ng/jil (dpa, AFP, AP)

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