The United Nations Under Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock yesterday warned that 14 million people in Yemen could be “on the verge of starvation” in the coming months.
“My assessment – my advice to you – is that there is now a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen: much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives,” Lowcock warned in an UN address in New York.
“ We warned of famine in Yemen at the beginning of last year … What I am telling you today is that the situation is now much graver.”
The total number of people facing pre-famine conditions, meaning they are entirely reliant on external aid for survival, could soon reach not 11 million but 14 million. That is half the total population of the country.
“The immune systems of millions of people on survival support for years on end are now are literally collapsing, making them – especially children and the elderly – more likely to succumb to malnutrition, cholera and other diseases,” he added.
The World Food Programme warned on 16 October that famine could affect up to 12 million people in Yemen in the coming months.
Impoverished Yemen has remained in a state of civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sana’a.
In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen’s embattled government.
According to UN officials, more than 10,000 people have been killed in the war, while more than 11 per cent of the country’s population has been displaced.