ROME – Yemen has witnessed ferocious armed clashes, and a sharp deterioration of the security situation in Hodeidah and other cities across Yemen in recent days. Conflict, widespread economic hardship and currency devaluations are similarly affecting millions of innocent Yemenis and the public are protesting over soaring food prices.
My primary concern is the innocent children, women and men of Yemen, and I urge all parties to end the fighting and support efforts to build peace. Only an immediate cessation of hostilities will give the humanitarian community the sustained access it needs to provide the food and other vital assistance needed to save Yemeni lives.
Targeting humanitarian workers or humanitarian assets and infrastructure should have no place in Yemen or anywhere in the world. Yet, we have seen a spate of attacks, unwitting or otherwise, on our workers, our trucks, our warehouses and the silos holding our grain. I condemn any attempt to use humanitarian aid and facilities as tools of war. WFP warehouses, trucks, facilities, the silos and most importantly our staff are neutral and should be off limits to anybody involved in this conflict.
Yemen is already facing the world’s largest hunger crisis with 18 million people, or almost two thirds of the population, not knowing where their next meal is coming from. WFP assistance has been critical in preventing the country from descending into a full-blown famine, but, in the face of growing obstacles and risks, we are now reaching the limit.
During the past year we have scaled up to feed 6-7 million severely hungry people every month. This year we are scaling up to assist 8 million Yemenis a month. If the conflict continues to intensify and economic conditions further deteriorate, we could well see the number of severely food-insecure Yemenis increasing to 12 million, who would then need daily food assistance to survive.
With limited access, escalating insecurity and further damage to the country’s infrastructure, our ability to deliver assistance to this number of people would be extremely challenging. Moreover, additional humanitarian needs in Yemen translate into additional funding requirements and, with multiple major humanitarian emergencies across the globe, the financial brunt of this crisis is becoming a major challenge for the international community.
The country’s economy has taken a nose dive in recent weeks, exacerbated by the 180 percent depreciation of the Yemeni Riyal since the beginning of the conflict in 2015. The cost of basic food items has increased by 35 percent in the past 12 months, leaving many families unable to feed themselves.
Time is running out for aid agencies in Yemen to prevent this country from slipping into a devastating famine and we cannot afford any disruption to the lifeline we are providing for the innocent victims of this conflict. New entry points for humanitarian and commercial food imports and a free-flow of commercial and humanitarian food inside the country are urgently needed if we are to address the growing hunger crisis across the country.
I urge all parties to the conflict to meet their obligations to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure and take active steps to respect international humanitarian law by ending the conflict and bringing the peace that Yemen so desperately needs.
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