Press release

Justine Greening: Food crisis in Yemen could kill millions

International Development Secretary announces new £40 million UK humanitarian support for people affected by ongoing conflict.

A Yemeni woman and child with an aid kit distributed by Save the Children. Picture: Save the Children/M. Awadh
A Yemeni woman and child with an aid kit distributed by Save the Children. Picture: Save the Children/M. Awadh

Millions of people are at risk of starving to death by the end of the year if ongoing conflict creates a food crisis in Yemen, International Development Secretary Justine Greening warned today, as she announced new lifesaving UK assistance for the country.

The UK’s new £40 million support will provide Yemenis affected by the crisis, including those forced to flee their homes, with emergency shelter, healthcare, water and food assistance, as well as supporting UN work to co-ordinate the humanitarian response.

The package of emergency humanitarian aid comes as the UN launches its revised humanitarian appeal for Yemen. The UN appeal aims to raise $1.6 billion to meet the needs of nearly 12 million Yemenis until the end of the year.

According to the UN, nearly a quarter of the population of Yemen – some six million people – are currently facing severe food shortages, more than nine million people have lost access to water and one million people have been displaced. The number of acutely malnourished children stands at one million and rising. The healthcare system is on the verge of collapse and the World Health Organisation has now confirmed an outbreak of dengue fever in the country.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said:

Thousands of Yemenis have already lost their lives in this latest wave of violence - but millions more are at risk of starving by the end of the year. This new aid from the UK will provide desperately needed food and clean water, emergency healthcare and protection for those caught up in the chaos.

While this will save lives in the short term, only by ensuring essential supplies can get into Yemen can we avert longer term catastrophe. That means a meaningful pause in the fighting to enable help to reach those in need, wherever they are. It also means getting food and especially fuel into the country and delivered to where it is desperately needed in order to mill wheat, transport food, pump water and power hospitals.

Fuel is vital to transport supplies and pump clean water, but the ongoing conflict means that fuel import levels in recent months have been barely ten per cent of what is needed. Yemen is also dependent on imports for 90 per cent of its food. What food and fuel does make it in is then not being distributed to where it is needed because it is blocked by fighting on the ground.

A significant humanitarian pause in the fighting would allow ports to reopen, allow aid agencies to identify and assess areas of greatest need and provide an opportunity for markets to start working again so that Yemenis can buy basic essentials and to help prop up the economy.

The UK is calling for this to happen as quickly as possible and strongly supports the UN Secretary General’s call for an extended humanitarian pause during Ramadan and ultimately a permanent ceasefire.

Notes to editors

  1. On 27 April 2015 the UK announced that it would provide an additional £4 million allocation to the UN 2015 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, bringing overall commitment at that point to £15 million. See: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-aid-to-help-meet-emergency-humanitarian-needs-in-yemen
  2. That existing commitment has been allocated as follows:
    • £4 million to the UN Yemen Humanitarian Pooled Fund, which provides life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable people in Yemen, including those most affected by the conflict, by providing medical supplies, water, food and emergency shelter; as well as supporting refugees and migrants.
    • £5.5 million to the UNICEF Nutrition Programme, which treats severely acutely malnourished children through health facilities and mobile clinics.
    • £5.5 million to the Humanitarian Resilience Programme, which is delivered through CARE, Save the Children, Oxfam, IOM and OCHA. The programme increases communities’ resilience to shocks by providing food, safe water, emergency livelihoods support, shelter, and protection services (and supports OCHA’s coordination role), but funds are being reprogrammed to meet emergency needs in light of the current situation.
  3. With the new funding announced today, this brings the total UK commitment in response to the Yemen crisis to £55 million, including at least £45 million to the UN’s emergency humanitarian appeal.

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Published 19 June 2015