Mercy Corps: War and Economic Collapse Drive Worsening Hunger Crisis in Yemen

Conditions go from desperate to worse in Yemen

SANA'A, Yemen — Amid a three-and-a-half-year-old conflict in their country, Yemenis are starving to death, driven not by lack of food but by policies by parties to the conflict that have led to an economic collapse, says the global organization Mercy Corps.

The latest IPC Acute Food Insecurity Analysis, that measures food security in Yemen, stopped short of a formal declaration of famine but identified that a Level 4 hunger crisis, or “famine-like conditions” exist for 5 million Yemenis — or approximately 17 percent of the country’s population. The report failed to find enough evidence to declare an actual famine in Yemen. Nonetheless, the IPC (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification) global alert details a worsening emergency situation in Yemen requiring immediate assistance. For a famine to have been declared, at least 20 percent of a region’s population would have to experience extreme food shortages, with significant numbers of deaths due to starvation.

"Whilst there may not be enough data to make a technical declaration of famine, we have been watching this crisis worsen, with increased malnutrition and starvation. It is now commonplace in Yemen,” said Abdikadir Mohamud, Mercy Corps Country Director in Yemen. “Simply put, people can no longer afford to eat. We know it is not the result of a scarcity of food, rather it is due to a dramatic rise in the cost of food. The collapse of the Yemeni economy and the instability of the country’s currency have put millions of lives in jeopardy.”

Located on the southern Saudi Arabian peninsula, Yemen descended into violent conflict in March 2015. The cost of staple foods has increased more than 35 percent in the past year alone, and 80 percent, on average, since before the crisis in Yemen.

"War and a currency in free fall have conspired to take Yemenis from poverty to starvation,” said Mohamud. “The hunger crisis is man-made and stems from policies that humanitarian assistance alone would never be able to repair. The path to solving hunger starts with stabilizing the economy on one hand and establishing a lasting political solution in Yemen on the other.”

Mercy Corps is currently providing food assistance to approximately a quarter-million people and reached more than 3.7 million people with humanitarian assistance last year in Yemen.