The World Food Program warns half of Yemen’s 24 million people are living in a state of crisis, with more than seven million going hungry every day. The WFP says it urgently needs more than a quarter-billion dollars to provide food aid to people suffering from hunger, war and disease.
WFP spokeswoman Bettina Luescher says it is shocking and horrible to see this level of desperation in the 21st century. But, she notes more than seven million people in Yemen do not know where their next meal is coming from.
The U.N. agency was helping some three million Yemenis every month. But, she says, the WFP is so short of cash, in recent months it has been forced to split food rations in half so that six million people will get something to eat.
Though the portions are smaller, she says the food rations prevent people from starving.
“When you see mothers who have little to eat themselves, when you see their children slipping away, it just breaks your heart ,” said Luescher. "So, we appeal to the world to help us do our job on the ground. We appeal to the fighting sides that humanitarians can get access to more areas.”
Luescher says the WFP was able to get to three hard-to-reach districts in Taiz governorate during last week’s 72-hour humanitarian pause in the fighting. She says the WFP will soon be able to access another 189,000 people in three other areas that have been off-limits.
Saida Ahmad Baghili, 18, who is affected by severe acute malnutrition, sits on a bed at the al-Thawra hospital in the Red Sea port city of Houdieda, Yemen, Oct. 24, 2016.
But, she adds, that does not solve the ongoing problem of hunger. The World Health Organization reports 1.5 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, about a quarter of them severely malnourished.
The WHO warns cholera continues to spread throughout the country. Latest figures show 1,410 suspected cases of the fatal disease.
In addition, the U.N. children’s fund says 7.4 million children lack health care. UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac says nearly 10,000 children under five have died since the escalation of Yemen’s civil war at the end of March 2015. That is when the Saudi Arabian coalition began its air strikes against the Houthi rebels.
“As you know, there are many children who die not only from bombings and bullets, but also from the diseases that we have mentioned very frequently—diarrhea, pneumonia and so on. And, the fact that the deterioration of the health system is critical,” said Boulierac.
U.N. aid agencies report Yemen’s health system has all but collapsed. They say about 600 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed and are no longer functioning, and that one-fifth of the country’s vaccination centers are closed.
FILE - A woman holds her malnourished child at a feeding center at al-Sabyeen hospital in Yemen's capital, Sanaa.