Half of Yemen in Hunger Crisis

Half of Yemen  in Hunger CrisisHalf of Yemen  in Hunger Crisis

Escalating violence in Yemen has pushed half of the population into hunger and the situation is likely to deteriorate further, the United Nations said as it called for a blockade on imports of fuel, food and medicine to be lifted immediately.

Since fighting intensified at the end of March, the number of people going hungry has risen by 17 percent to 13 million people, including six million at risk of starvation, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Program.

Nineteen out of the 22 governorates in the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest country are affected by the food crisis, the UN agencies said, World Bulletin reported.

“Conflict and the lack of food and fuel in the markets are pushing Yemen towards a complete breakdown in food security and health ... it is sliding into catastrophe,” the FAO and WFP said in a joint statement.

“Yemen desperately needs a pause in fighting, increased access and funding for humanitarian aid, and an immediate large-scale resumption of commercial imports.”

Yemen previously imported the majority of its fuel and 90 percent of its food to feed its population of 26 million, most of it by sea, but the alliance has maintained a blockade on imports.

The prices of wheat flour, sugar and cooking gas have all rocketed since the end of March, rising by up to 300 percent, while the price of fuel has soared by nearly 1,400 percent. Fuel is completely unavailable in seven governorates, the UN agencies said.

“Households are under increasing pressure to put meals on the table, particularly for the one million internally displaced Yemenis and the 200,000 people hosting some of them in their homes around the country,” the UN bodies said.

Aid agencies are working to deliver emergency food supplies, as well as cash transfers, seeds and livestock vaccinations, but have been hindered by the ongoing conflict, issues concerning access and a lack of funding, according to the UN.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for a two-week humanitarian ceasefire when he opened peace talks earlier this week, to allow life-saving supplies into the country.

 $1.6b for Yemen Aid

The UN said on Friday that $1.6 billion are needed to face a “looming catastrophe” in Yemen where a Saudi-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes for almost three months to try to restore fugitive president Abd-Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and repel Houthis.

“Over 21 million people or 80% of the population are now estimated to be in need of some form of humanitarian aid or protection,” UN spokesman Jens Laerke told a news briefing.

Stephen O’Brien, UN deputy chief for humanitarian affairs, launched the revised funding appeal, telling donors that a “looming catastrophe” was in the making across Yemen with families struggling to find food.

 Deadly Blasts in Sanaa

The Yemeni capital was rocked on Wednesday night by five bombs that targeted mosques and a house of a senior Houthi militaman.

Thirty-one people were killed, according to AFP, with dozens feared injured, as the bombs exploded almost simultaneously just after sundown on the eve of Ramadan.

Two car bombs targeted mosques, while a third hit the house of the head of the Houthi politburo, Saleh al-Sammad. Explosive devices also went off at two other mosques.

Video footage that purports to be from the scene of one of the explosions, outside the Green Dome Mosque in Hayel Street, shows fire spreading to nearby buildings after the huge blast. A separate clip shows bystanders rushing to the site of the blasts to try and rescue the wounded.

The mosques are in residential areas of the city populated by civilians.

Islamic State, which recently announced that it has active branches in Yemen, put out an official statement just over an hour after the attacks claiming responsibility for them.

Two previous similar attacks involving bombs placed outside mosques have later been claimed by IS.

A bombing in late May that wounded 13 people at a Houthi-affiliated mosque followed an earlier attack in which at least 142 people were killed by four simultaneous mosque bombings.