Seven million people in Yemen are at risk of a man-made famine, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary-General Jan Egeland said on Wednesday, May 3 after a five-day visit to the country.
The world is letting some 7 million men, women and children slowly but surely, be engulfed by unprecedented famine. It is not a drought that is at fault. This preventable catastrophe is man-made from A to Z.
Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council
According to an April 30 report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 17 million people – 62% of the current estimated population – are in need of food assistance. Of these, 6.8 million – 24% of the population – are classed as emergency cases and 10.2 million are in food crisis.
Egeland said this month the World Food Programme will only be able to feed 3 million of the 7 million people most in need.
“Men with guns and power inside Yemen as well as in regional and international capitals are undermining every effort to avert an entirely preventable famine,” Egeland said.
NRC says commercial food imports have reached an all-time low, driving the price of basic commodities to rise by a third on average.
“Nowhere on earth are as many lives at risk. We are not even sure that the main humanitarian lifeline through the port of Hudaydah will be kept open. The Saudi-led, Western-backed, military coalition has threatened to attack the port, which would likely destroy it and cut supplies to millions of hungry civilians,” Egeland said.
He appeared to be referring to warnings from the United Nations that the Saudi-led coalition may be preparing an attack on the port. On May 1, Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr said arms trafficking has continued at Hudaydah and threatens both Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Yemen imports about 90 percent of its food, and about 70 of that is brought in through Hudaydah. The Saudi-led coalition has periodically blockaded the port since 2015, causing the re-routing, delay and outright denial of humanitarian deliveries.
The long war?
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said on May 3 that a long war in Yemen is in the interest of Saudi Arabia because the Saudi-led coalition has strong financing and a steady arms supply.
Salman, who is Saudi defense minister and also oversees the government’s overhaul of the economy, said: “The Houthis and their allies could be rooted out in several days, but the cost would be thousands of dead among our soldiers and losses too high among the Yemeni civilians.”
Fighting between President Abd Rabbuh Manusr Hadi’s forces and Houthi rebels allied with fighters loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh escalated in 2015, prompting Riyadh to intervene on Hadi’s behalf.
The conflict is affecting nearly the entire population of Yemen: about half of its 26.8 million people live in areas directly affected by war, and more than 21.1 million people need humanitarian assistance.
The offensive has displaced 2.8 million people and killed more than 10,000 civilians.