Yemen is on the brink of famine. A staggering 7 million people have been pushed into food insecurity since the conflict began two and a half years ago. In 2014, 10 million Yemenis were food insecure. This figure has jumped to 17 million people, i.e. 60 percent of the population by 2017. 7 million of them are at risk of famine. If the conflict and the drivers of food shortages continue, 75 percent of the Yemeni population could be food insecure by 2018. More than 600,000 people are suspected of having contracted cholera and over 2,000 have died in the past five months only. Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, not because of a natural disaster but due to the direct, man-made consequences of two and a half years of war.
Despite the relentless efforts of national and international NGOs to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, aid alone cannot solve the multiple, interlinked crises that people in Yemen have to cope with on a daily basis. The international community and all parties to the conflict must ensure immediate and meaningful action to address the key factors that impede a long-term and sustainable improvement to the food security and health situation in Yemen.
Public salaries need to be paid. Over 1.2 million public sector workers providing civil service deliveries have not been paid, or have been paid only intermittently, during the past year. Around 7 million people depend on these salaries. As the food crisis is to a significant part owed to the fact that people simply cannot pay for food, these salaries are needed so that almost 25 percent of the population has the means to afford basic staple food available in the market. Furthermore, public sector salary payments must be reinstated to support the reestablishment of basic service delivery in a country where 15.7 million people need WASH assistance, and where 48,000 health workers have not been paid for a year.
All channels to transport food to and within Yemen need to be kept open, and the cranes for Hodeidah port need to be delivered and installed. The capacity of Hodeidah port, through which the majority of food imports reach the country, is greatly reduced because the new cranes have been held in Dubai without clearance to be installed at Hodeidah port. Yemen suffers from alarmingly high levels of food insecurity. In a country that imports approximately 90 percent of its food needs, including staple food, the impairment of key technical facilities at one of its key entry points leads to great delays, higher costs, and a reduced amount of food that can be brought into the country. This creates a deadly combination for 60 percent of Yemen’s population that neither has the means to pay higher prices, nor the time to wait any longer for essential food needs.
Sana’a airport needs to be reopened. One of the country’s main airports has been closed for a year to all commercial flights. It needs to be reopened immediately not only to enable the import of urgently needed medicine and supplies, but also to enable Yemenis to seek medical treatment abroad.. Over 50 percent of all health facilities in Yemen are closed or only partially functioning and 14.8 million people are in need of health care. A fully functioning airport will serve the country again on humanitarian as well as commercial levels.
Yemen needs peace now. Whilst the above-mentioned points are essential for an alleviation of the most immediate suffering of Yemenis, a robust peace process to end the conflict that includes representatives from all groups of Yemen’s society, in particular women, youth and civil society, is indispensable to avert the threat of famine, end the cholera epidemic and prevent the outbreak of further diseases. Humanitarian assistance is no solution to these issues. Only a viable peace process is. Yemenis deserve to rebuild their livelihoods and look to a future free of conflict, famine and disease. The international community must not any longer turn a blind eye to Yemen’s multiple humanitarian crises.