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WFP funding crunch in Yemen sees millions go hungry

By AFP - Feb 20,2022 - Last updated at Feb 20,2022

Three-year-old Yemeni child Randa Ali, suffering from severe acute malnutrition, is photographed with the members of her family in Al Khudash camp for displaced people in the Abs district of Yemen's northwestern Hajjah governorate, on Saturday (AFP photo)

BRUSSELS — The UN's food aid arm, the World Food Programme, says it is being forced to cut rations to millions of starving people in war-ravaged Yemen in order to feed those starving to death there.

The WFP's director for the Middle East and North Africa region, Corinne Fleischer, told AFP in an interview on Friday that donor money is drying up despite Yemen going through what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"We have a big funding crunch," she said.

Donor money so far only covers 18 per cent of the nearly two billion dollars WFP needs for its Yemen operations, she said.

"We need $806 million more in the next six months to feed 13 million people," Fleischer said.

The shortfall is already giving the UN organisation no choice but to ringfence money for five million people in Yemen "on the brink of famine", meaning that the other 8 million suffering inadequate food supplies are getting half rations from the WFP.

"One parents told us that they haven't eaten for two days, to give the food to their children. Many say now they will have to return back to eating only bread and drinking tea. That's clearly not enough for a healthy diet," she said.

"And then the most heartbreaking we've heard is that people start collecting leaves," to eat.

The WFP, Fleischer said, managed to avert famine last year because of donors' generosity in giving $1.4 billion.

But the money given has plunged precipitously this year, which Fleischer attributed to needs globally that have gone up "drastically" as conflicts, climate change and COVID all dealt their impact.

"Those who really need food assistance has gone from 115 million to 280 million. So of course, the needs have been growing," she said.

"Donors... have been generous, but also have to deal with their own issues around COVID and their economies. And so there is simply not much more money available."

The top donors to the WFP for its Yemen operations are the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Germany, the European Union, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland.

Conflict in Yemen 

Yemen, where a seven-year civil war has raged between pro-government forces and Iran-backed Houthi rebels, is one of many conflicts flaring around the planet.

A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been waging war on the Houthis since 2015 with the aim of reinstalling in Sanaa the internationally recognised government.

The Houthis have responded to the missiles and air strikes with drone attacks on Saudi Arabia and coalition partner United Arab Emirates.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly in the conflict, while millions have been displaced.

Fleischer said that “conflict is a main driver of food insecurity, the main driver of hunger... we have to stop conflict around the world so that people can go back to their homes, and you know, have a normal life”.

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