Yemen being "slowly starved to death" - Oxfam

The charity warned that the conflict in the country has left the population “at risk of catastrophic hunger” with food stocks set to run out by April

Yemen being "slowly starved to death" - Oxfam

Displaced children in Yemen wait together and collect water. Image: Hind Aleryani/Oxfam

An international aid group has warned that Yemen is months away from running out of food as the country is torn apart by war.

Oxfam has said that the Yemeni population is “at risk of catastrophic hunger” with food stocks set to run out by April.

Fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government - which is supported by a Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States - has been underway for more than 20 months.

Over 11,000 civilians have been killed or seriously injured in the conflict with more than 3 million forced to leave their homes, according to Oxfam.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 37,000 people have been injured since the Saudi led military intervention in the country.

The United States has supported the coalition against the Houthis over the past year with intelligence, weapons and mid-air refuelling aircraft.

“Yemen is being slowly starved to death,” said Oxfam GB chief executive, Mark Goldring.

“First there were restrictions on imports - including much needed food. When this was partially eased, the cranes in the ports were bombed; then the warehouses, then the roads and the bridges. This is not by accident - it is systematic.

“The country’s economy, its institutions, its ability to feed and care for its people are all on the brink of collapse.”

Oxfam is calling on the Saudi-led coalition to lift shipping restrictions to allow food and other vital imports to increase.

The international agency said that in August, the amount of food imported into Yemen fell below half the level needed to feed the country’s people and has remained below that level ever since.

Even before the conflict started, Yemen was suffering a humanitarian crisis including widespread hunger with nearly 90 per cent of country’s food imported.

Around half of Yemen's 28 million people are "food insecure," according to the United Nations, and seven million of them do not know where they will get their next meal.

The World Food Programme is warning that the numbers may rise to 21 million people.

“There is still time to pull it back before we see chronic hunger becoming widespread starvation,” said Mr Goldring.

The fighting needs to stop and the ports should be fully opened to vital supplies of food, fuel and medicine.

“As one of the principle backers of this brutal war, Britain needs to end its arms sales and military support to the Saudis and help put Yemen on the road to peace.” 

The UN aid effort in Yemen is currently less than 60% funded, falling €634m short of what is required.

"The world has turned a blind eye to what's happening in Yemen,” the UN humanitarian coordinator for the country, Jamie McGoldrick told the BBC. “Right now we are so under-resourced for this crisis, it's extraordinary."  

"Familes are just not able to feed their families,” he said. “Families are not able to treat their kids who are sick.”

Oxfam is warning the country - formerly a fuel exporter - is also facing a fuel crisis with the conflict effectively shutting down production.

Now dependent upon fuel from overseas, Yemen is only importing a quarter of what it needs.

The charity said the fuel imports are essential to, “pump water, run hospitals, light homes and keep Yemen’s ailing economy from collapsing completely.”

The charity said there are huge challenges facing the distribution of food to where it is need - as bridges on vital trade routes have been deliberately bombed.