Situation Worsens Amid a Severe Funding Crisis
The situation in Yemen – already the world’s largest humanitarian crisis – continues to deteriorate amid a funding crisis that is impeding scale-up of life-saving aid to avert famine.
Having endured six years of armed conflict and related violence alongside an economic blockade, the people of Yemen are again facing the specter of heightened food insecurity and potential famine, according to the recently released humanitarian needs overview.
Yemen faced the threat of a large-scale famine in 2018, but unprecedented levels of humanitarian funding enabled aid agencies to launch the fastest and largest response of this crisis, which helped avert this threat. However, the underlying drivers of the crisis – the war and the blockade – persist and their impact worsened the humanitarian situation in 2020 and into 2021, leaving millions of people again facing the threat of large-scale famine.
By the end of April, only 34 per cent ($1.326 billion) of the $3.85 billion required to avert famine was provided. Aid agencies are reaching only half of the 16 million people targeted with food assistance every month. This means that, if funding is not urgently secured to enable a massive scale-up of lifesaving aid, millions of those in acute need risk falling into greater levels of need. The international community must not wait for a famine classification in Yemen to act. Millions of people have exhausted coping strategies and food insecurity will continue to rise without immediate humanitarian support.
The situation is aggravated by a weakening economy, mainly the depletion of foreign currency reserves which is driving inflation up, eroding purchasing power and pushing food prices higher, again resulting in increased levels of food insecurity. Traditional sources of foreign currency such as remittances, oil exports, humanitarian funding and bilateral funding streams remain suppressed. Consequently, the Yemeni rial is still trading near record lows – at YER 892 per USD throughout March before slightly appreciating to YER 830 by the beginning of April. This fluctuation means that millions of people cannot afford to buy food or other essentials, even those who still have an income.
In his briefing to the UN Security Council on 15 April, USG/ERC Mark Lowcock called on donors to disburse any outstanding pledges right away, and to make additional pledges. He also noted that “sustained assistance is going to be necessary all through the year if we are going to avert the famine, as well as deal with Yemen’s other acute needs.” USG/ ERC Lowcock also called for the provision of additional foreign exchange through the Central Bank to stabilize the local currency.