Geneva - The scale of the food crisis in conflict-ridden Yemen is staggering with 17 million people - two thirds of the population - severely food insecure and seven million of these on the verge of famine, FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva said today in a briefing to the UN Security Council.

In a video link from Geneva, he noted how conflict and violence in Yemen - "the largest humanitarian crisis today" - have disrupted agricultural livelihoods and are intensifying in some of the most food insecure and famine-risk areas.

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification conducted in March this year, registered a 20 percent increase in the number of people estimated to be severely food insecure (IPC Phase 3 and above). Seven million are in IPC Phase 4 meaning they are a step away from being classified to be in Famine (IPC Phase 5).

In Yemen "crop production last year already fell by 40 percent compared with the pre-conflict average. This year, because of poor rains the harvest will be even lower," he said.

The virtual collapse of public health and veterinary services has further heightened the risk of disease and death. In addition, there are risks in the use of poor quality water of irrigation and food preparation.

Livestock disease surveillance and vaccination programmes have come to a halt pushing the risk of disease outbreaks higher. The risk of emerging and endemic zoonoses (animal diseases) exists across the country.

Saving lives by saving livelihoods

The need for long-term political solutions for achieving sustainable peace in Yemen is unquestionable, but there is much we can do now to fight hunger and malnutrition. "We save lives by saving livelihoods," Graziano da Silva said.

"If we don't urgently address the needs of rural people - who make up 70 percent of Yemen's population - we will not have the prospect for a better future."

Graziano da Silva addressed the UN Security Council together with the World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

FAO's response

FAO is doing its best to respond to the crisis on many fronts and with limited funding. So far this year, FAO has reached 450 000 people with a mixture of animal health, dairy, animal feed, crop and vegetable production.

In Yemen, at a cost of $220 per family, a crop kit can yield enough food for about three months. A vegetable kit costing $80 per family can yield enough vegetables that families can eat and even sell to their communities all year long.

FAO is working closely with the World Bank, the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and others to increase food production, maintain and enhance livelihoods, protect public health and conduct the IPC analysis.

Source: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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