Yemen sees return to alarming levels of food insecurity

Economic crisis, conflict, floods, desert locusts – and now COVID-19 - could wipe out improvements in food security in parts of Yemen, UN agencies warn

22 July 2020
A malnourished child receives treatment at a camp for families displaced in Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2020
A malnourished child receives treatment at a camp for families displaced by insecurity in Ahl Al-Jalal, Mareb.

Joint Press Release by UNICEF, WFP, FAO and OCHA


22 July 2020, Sana’a – Economic shocks, conflict, floods, desert locusts and now COVID-19 are creating a perfect storm that could reverse hard-earned food security gains in Yemen, warns the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis released today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and partners.

The analysis carried out so far in 133 districts in southern Yemen[1] forecasts an alarming increase of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity, i.e. in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) by the end of the year.  

Acute food insecurity in these areas eased last year thanks to a massive scale-up of humanitarian assistance but all the good work could quickly be undone as the number of people facing high levels of acute food insecurity is forecast to increase from 2 million to 3.2 million in the next six months.

This would represent an increase from 25 percent (in February-April) to 40 percent of the population (in July-December) suffering from high levels of acute food insecurity even if humanitarian food assistance and access to those in need are maintained.  

Drivers of acute food insecurity:

  • Economic decline is the main driver. Economic crisis and inflation persist with the local currency in free fall, rising food prices and a near depletion of foreign exchange reserves. For example, from mid-December 2019 to mid-June 2020, the local currency (Yemeni riyal) lost an average of 19 percent of its value against the US dollar, surpassing the 2018 crisis levels.
  • Conflict remains a key driver of acute food insecurity.
  • COVID-19 is affecting food availability, access and market supply, as well as income-earning opportunities and wages. Important measures to restrict the spread of COVID-19 have led to import delays, logistical barriers, and disrupted markets. Remittances from Yemenis abroad have also decreased by about 20 percent and are expected to continue declining.
  • New desert locust and fall armyworm breeding areas are emerging as a consequence of ecologically favourable conditions, including rains, and threaten food production in Yemen, the region and beyond.
  • Cereal production this year, for example, is forecast to be 365,000 metric tonnes -- less than half of pre-war levels.
  • Flash floods have already had a devastating impact in some areas, and most of the districts along the Arabian coast are expected to be hit by cyclones in the coming months.

“The IPC is telling us that Yemen is again on the brink of a major food security crisis. Eighteen months ago, when we faced a similar situation, we were generously funded. We used the resources we were entrusted with wisely and massively scaled-up assistance in the districts where people were the hungriest and most at risk. The result was tremendous. We prevented famine. Unless we receive the funding we need now, we won’t be able to do the same this time,” said Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

"The people of Yemen have already been through a lot and are resilient. But they are facing now too many hardships and threats all at once - from COVID-19 to Desert Locusts invasions. Small-holder farmers and families who depend upon agriculture for their livelihoods need our support now more than ever,” said Hussein Gadain, FAO Representative in Yemen.  

“Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts,” said Laurent Bukera, WFP Country Director in Yemen. “We must act now. In 2019, thanks to a massive scale-up, WFP and partners were able to reverse the deterioration in the worst hit areas of Yemen. The warning signs have returned and with Coronavirus pandemic added to the mix, it could get a lot worse if humanitarian action is delayed.”

“A dangerous combination of conflict, economic hardship, food scarcity and a crumbling health system has pushed millions of children in Yemen to the brink, and the COVID-19 crisis could make things even worse,” said Sherin Varkey, UNICEF’s acting Representative in Yemen.

“More and more young children are at risk of becoming severely malnourished and requiring urgent treatment. Increased and sustained support is vital if we are to save these children’s lives.”

What do we need to do now?

The IPC analysis’s recommendations for urgent actions include:

  • Ensuring continued and unhindered food assistance to save lives and protecting the livelihoods of populations facing high levels of acute food insecurity, including displaced people;
  • Rehabilitating water infrastructures damaged by floods and reducing the impacts of future floods on water and irrigation systems;
  • Supporting farmers who lost their crops and pasture due to pest and climate shocks (locust infestation, fall armyworm, floods);
  • Promoting good nutritional practices at the household level through activities such as home gardening and educational awareness on food and water safety; and
  • Strengthening early warning and general food security monitoring systems to mitigate the negative impact of shocks and enable a rapid and coordinated response.

About WFP

The United Nations World Food Programme is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies, building prosperity and supporting a sustainable future for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children visit www.unicef.org/yemen  
 

About FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

Our goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide. We believe that everyone can play a part in ending hunger


[1] The IPC analysis is based on data gathered in March 2020 in 133 districts across 13 governorates in southern Yemen as well as a review of hunger drivers and their impacts in these areas in the second quarter of 2020. These include flash floods, Desert Locusts and Fall Armyworm invasions, and a wave of conflict in Al Jawf and Marib. A full IPC analysis including data from the rest of the country is expected to be released in a few months.

 

Media Contacts

Harriet Dwyer
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Yemen
Tel: +967 712223001
Tel: +44 79 43 90 9210

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF Yemen and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org/yemen

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