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Yemen may face famine in a few months, UNHCR warns

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The UN Refugee Agency is warning that 5 million people in Yemen are facing famine-like conditions as a result of the six-year conflict, with displaced people particularly at risk.

The destruction of the country’s healthcare system, among other key infrastructure, has meant the risk of a large-scale famine in the country has never been more acute – and is being predicted to take a devastating turn before June this year with international aid commitments falling short.

“The situation is dire, one of the worst I’ve experienced in my 24 years of humanitarian work,” said Jean-Nicolas Beuze, United Nations High Commissioner Representative in Yemen.

“Over 80% of people in Yemen depend on humanitarian aid for their survival, including 4 million displaced from conflict and violence. Around 50,000 are already living in famine-like conditions – and from what we’ve seen in the last couple of weeks we know millions more are right on the brink of complete starvation.”

High levels of food insecurity persist, amidst deterioration of the economy, conflict, and the socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Malnutrition is rampant in the country and most people are eating only a little rice or bread once a day. Many parents are going without food completely to ensure their children have some sustenance, however little, to keep them alive.

UNHCR is on the ground navigating 50 active frontlines to provide emergency support to displaced families, including shelter kits and cash assistance for food.

Distributed by UNHCR through secure Hawala banking systems, life-saving cash assistance is proving to be the best defence against starvation for the most vulnerable displaced people, but tough decisions are having to be made on who receives this support.

Despite the worsening crisis, global support for humanitarian programs in Yemen has fallen to its lowest level in years. Without resources or critical funding, those experiencing acute hunger and hardship will remain beyond UNHCR’s reach.

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