Almost half of the Yemenis are facing acute food security, says the UN and pushes the country closer to famine

Hunger-like conditions have recurred in parts of Yemen and almost half of the population is experiencing high levels of food insecurity, new UN data showed on Thursday, with the aid agency’s warning time to prevent mass starvation.

About 45% of Yemen’s population faces high levels of acute food security, according to the UN’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis.

Within this number, 33% of the population is in crisis, 12% are in emergencies and 16,500 people are in a catastrophic, famine-like situation, the worst level of IPC ratings.

The outlook for next year is worse, says the IPC analysis. Between January and June 2021, 54% of Yemenis – 16.2 million people – are likely to experience high levels of acute food insecurity.

Those in a catastrophic state are likely to increase to 47,000 people.

“These alarming figures must be a wake-up call to the world,” said David Beasley, executive director of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP).

IPC data analyzes for southern Yemen, which is under the control of the internationally recognized Yemeni government, were released in July and October. Thursday’s analysis now includes IPC data for northern Yemen, where the majority of Yemenis live and which are controlled by Iran-adapted Houthi authorities, to provide a nationwide picture of hunger.

Pockets with starvation-like conditions have returned for the first time in two years and the window to prevent starvation is shrinking, warned the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), WFP and the UN children’s agency UNICEF, based on the data.

Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen, where the more than five-year-old war has left 80% of the population dependent on aid in what the UN says is the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

UN warnings at the end of 2018 of imminent famine prompted increased help. WFP, which also coordinated medical logistics during the coronavirus pandemic, won the Nobel Peace Prize 2020.

This year, however, coronavirus restrictions, reduced transmissions, locusts, floods and significant underfunding of the 2020 response response will make hunger more difficult.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu said the main driver of food insecurity is the conflict, which must end.

“We must act immediately,” said Mohamed Abdi, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s country director. “Waiting for a declaration of hunger to act will sentence hundreds of thousands of people to death.”