Yemen on brink of “seismic hunger crisis” 

March 16, 2022 - 15:51

TEHRAN- The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) has issued a new stark warning over the humanitarian crisis in Yemen saying the desperate levels of hunger are “set to become catastrophic”.

In a statement WFP said the number of Yemenis relying on food assistance has risen to 17.4 million, an increase of 1.2 million Yemenis compared to last year and is estimated to reach 19 million Yemenis who will go hungry in the second half of this year. 

The UN organization has cited a lack of funding and the Ukraine crisis as two reasons for the deepening “catastrophe” in what is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley says "we are looking at a seismic hunger crisis if we do not step up now. Unless we receive immediate funds, hungry people will lose assistance right at the time they need it most.”

And in a more dire assessment, Beasley says "funding for Yemen has never reached this point,” adding “we have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving."

WFP says at the beginning of this year, it was forced to reduce food rations for eight million people due to a shortage of funds. For now, the UN agency says five million people who are at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions have continued to receive a full food ration. But unless new funds arrive further reductions will be unavoidable.

WFP says it is currently only eleven percent funded and needs more than US$887.9 million to provide food assistance for 13 million people over the coming six months.

Yemen’s deputy foreign minister in Sana'a, Hussein al-Azi, says "the ongoing siege on Yemen will remain an indicator of war, with which any talk of peace can be discredited."

Al-Ezzi noted Yemen’s armed forces are prepared to end their resistance as soon as the war on the country ends saying "our readiness to stop our defense will always remain as soon as [the Saudi-led coalition’s] aggression stops, just as surrendering or abandoning the rights of our people and our country will forever be rejected."

Yemeni officials argue the Saudi-led American-backed coalition waging war on Yemen is using starvation as a method of warfare to force the Yemeni people to accept terms of surrender during peace talks. 

Similar remarks on the use of starvation as a weapon of war has been echoed by various human rights groups. 

The leader of the Ansarallah  movement whose forces have fought side by side with the Yemeni army, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, has also declared that the siege and economic war on Yemen "aims to torture the Yemeni people and raise the level of their suffering."

Al-Ezzi pointed out that "the United States has drawn out the roles and tasks for each country [involved in the Saudi-led coalition] and the United Nations in an integrated manner in a way that they do not deviate from the ongoing war."

"Washington prevented the countries waging aggression from engaging with Sana'a in any real peace negotiations that would stop the war, so that [Washington’s] exclusive mission becomes only war“ al-Ezzi stressed. 

The Yemeni diplomat added "The United States has robbed the United Nations of all the characteristics of a true peace mediator, that is able to move productively towards peace negotiations,” saying Washington has “led the [UN] mission to waste time in media activities, or following up on the news, for example, and writing it down in a monthly report or periodic briefings."

He explained that “in accordance with its specific goals, Washington pushes for negotiations that only lead to our surrender and then publicize the reaction of Sana’a, by turning our refusal to surrender into an accusation of obstructing peace, with a shameful and scandalous number of lies."

During an interview with the Lebanese based al-Mayadeen news channel, 
a senior official with the Supreme Political Bureau in Yemen Muhammad Ali al-Houthi says "the humanitarian aspect is a scandal for the United Nations and the Security Council, and for all countries that claim democracy."

Al-Houthi warned that "there is a deliberate starvation campaign of the Yemeni people, and the United Nations is covering it up," declaring that "we will not remain idly by."

Al-Houthi laid out Yemen’s demands saying “an end to the aggression, withdrawal [of foreign forces] from the Republic of Yemen, and ending the siege," adding that "Israel must refrain from any actions harmful to the Yemeni people, otherwise very sensitive sites will be targeted."

He also restated Yemen’s official position that "the United States is leading the aggression against Yemen, and any movement does not come without directions from it," noting that "the planes cannot take off from Saudi Arabia to bomb in Yemen until the coordinates are sent from the United States."

Separately al-Houthi says "what is being circulated in the media about the GCC invitation for talks is in fact an invitation by Riyadh," adding that "Riyadh is itself a party in the war, not a mediator.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths has noted that Yemen relies on commercial imports for 90 percent of its food and nearly all its fuel. 

He says one-third of its wheat comes from Russia and Ukraine, where the conflict, which began on 24 February may push food prices, which already doubled last year, even higher.

Yemeni officials say the “Saudi-led- American backed” coalition’s siege on the Yemeni port city of Hodeideh has prevented the vital entry of fuel cargos into the country adding to the already dire humanitarian crisis. 

The UN Special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, says that over the last month, artillery shelling in Taiz again inflicted civilian casualties and damage to residential buildings, while hostilities have been reported in Sa’dah and Al Dali’ governorates. 

“[Saudi] Airstrikes continue, primarily on frontlines in Marib and Hajjah,” he said. 

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia waged a war on Yemen in an attempt to reinstate the former government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi whose term had expired but was loyal to Riyadh. At the time Saudi Arabia declared its military operation would last a few weeks. 

The popular revolution that followed demanded sovereignty for Yemen after being under the grips of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for decades.

A resilient resistance against the Saudi bombardment that has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemenis has kept the conflict alive seven years after Saudi Arabia announced its offensive.  

This is despite the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of advanced weapons that Riyadh has purchased from America and other western counties who are making a remarkable profit from the war. 

The majority of the casualties from the almost daily airstrikes on Yemen have been civilians including women and children. That has led to human rights organizations accusing the West of being directly complicit in the war. 

Rights groups say the relentless air campaign with mostly American-made bombs amounts to “war crimes” that need to be investigated at an international level. 

Two years ago, a team of UN investigators delivered a devastating report to the UN Humans Rights Council in Geneva detailing how the U.S., along with Britain France, are likely complicit in war crimes due to their continued arms sales and intelligence support to the Saudis and Emiratis. 

Other counties such as Canada are also accused of complicity in war crimes because of their arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition. 

In essence, the “chronic emergency” could end today if Western arms companies halt the supply of weapons to the coalition waging war on the poorest nation in the region.

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