Waiting to declare famine ‘will be too late for Yemenis on brink of starvation’

“If we wait for famine to be declared, it will already be too late as people will already be dying”, the UN said in a statement.

The UN agency has already had to limit distributions in the north of the country and fears that it may not be able to prevent people from starving, as it said it did last year.

Widely described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the country has been torn apart by more than five years of conflict between the forces of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi - supported by a Saudi-led international coalition – and mainly Houthi militia, for control of the Arab nation.

WFP spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs told journalists in Geneva that the dire economic situation in Yemen caused by the conflict had led to reduced imports and soaring food prices in a country that imports almost everything it needs.

“There are 10 million people who are facing (an) acute food shortage, and we are ringing the alarm bell for these people, because their situation is deteriorating because of escalation and because of the lockdowns and the constraints and the social-economic impact of the coronavirus,”, she said. “Those people cannot go to find work, they have to stay home, they cannot feed themselves and their families.”

Fewer than one in two health facilities are fully functioning and nearly half of all children have been left stunted by malnutrition, requiring treatment, according to WFP.

In total, two million children require treatment for acute malnutrition “of which around 360,000 are at risk of dying without treatment”, the agency said.

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