The U.N. World Food Program is scaling up its emergency food and nutrition program for millions of Yemeni civilians who are on the brink of famine. The WFP warns conditions in the country continue to worsen as more than three years of escalating warfare have pushed the country’s economic and health systems to the point of collapse.
The WFP says Yemen is facing the worst hunger crisis in the world. It reports two-thirds of the population, or 18 million people, do not know where their next meal is coming from.
The agency warns conditions will worsen as the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign intensifies to retake the crucial Yemeni seaport of Hodeidah from Houthi rebels. Since June, it notes, the conflict has forced more than a half-million people to flee their homes.
WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the large-scale displacement is occurring at the same time Yemen’s local currency has seriously depreciated, causing the cost of basic foods to skyrocket.
“If this situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions,” Verhoosel said.
The United Nations says more than 16,000 civilians, many of them children, have been killed or injured since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing Houthi rebels in support of Yemen's government in March 2015. In one of the worst incidents, a coalition airstrike in August hit a bus, killing 50 people, including 40 children.
The U.N. children’s fund reports some 400,000 children in Yemen suffer from severe acute malnutrition and nearly 2 million from acute malnutrition. It says children are dying every day from a lack of food and inability to access life-saving health care.
There has been an upsurge in fighting in and around Hodeidah city in recent weeks. Despite that, the WFP says its humanitarian operations continue.