Emergency Relief Coordinator reiterates that Yemen is being starved while the Security Council echoes calls for action
At an event in New York on 10 December, ″Averting Famine in Yemen″, the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), Mr. Mark Lowcock, reiterated his assertion, first made in a briefing to the Security Council in November 2020, that Yemenis are being starved, ″It’s the war that’s pushing Yemen towards famine. That’s how we got to this point. The economy is collapsing…. And donors are offering much less help this year. Not western European or American donors but other key donors. And so, what we’ve got now is the result of decisions taken by powerful people in Yemen and other countries. And that’s what I meant when I said that Yemen was being starved. Those same powerful people could just as easily choose not to starve Yemen.”
Mr. Lowcock drew attention to how famine was averted in Yemen at the end of 2018 and start of 2019, when the world took action, “Humanitarian funding increased sharply in 2019, enabling aid agencies to save millions more lives. Yemen’s partners injected foreign exchange into the economy, which helped keep food and other commodities affordable for people. And, of course, we had the Stockholm Agreement.” The ERC pointed to the very different situation in 2020, with violence increasing, economic support having dried up, and funding for the aid operation having plummeted. “Agencies this year received only about half as much money as last year. That’s why we’ve cut the number of people receiving food aid. And we’ve closed clinics. And we’ve closed water stations. So, it’s unsurprising when we say that the results confirm that famine-like conditions are back in Yemen. Yemen is again being starved.”
The ERC stated that ultimately, solving the crisis in Yemen will require a political solution and that dependable support for Yemen’s battered economy would also be needed. In the meantime, he indicated that millions of people need humanitarian assistance to survive. As the year closes, only 50 per cent of the US$3.38 billion needed for the humanitarian response in Yemen has been received.
Three days later, on 13 December, the Security Council took up the cause and called on all international donors, including those in the region, to step up urgently and save lives by disbursing outstanding pledges and making early and generous contributions in 2021 to prevent UN programme closures and famine in Yemen. Security Council members expressed alarm at the recent Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment, indicating that the number of people living in faminelike conditions in Yemen, currently 16,500, is expected to triple to 47,000 by June 2021 even if current levels of assistance are maintained. The assessment shows that 13.5 million people are already at risk of starvation and facing acute food insecurity, and this could rise to at least 16 million – over half the population – by June 2021. Security Council members highlighted how conflict and economic collapse are key drivers of the famine risk in Yemen and urged partners to consider all possible measures to strengthen the economy, including further injections of foreign exchange to the Central Bank. The statement also appealed to the parties to the conflict to keep to their obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law and for continued donor support to improve humanitarian access to prevent enormous loss of life.