Yemen food crisis: people left without aid as funding fails to arrive

Published: 19th July 2012

Oxfam and Islamic Relief warn of increasing hunger

Tens of thousands of people will be left without aid in Yemen’s hunger crisis unless more money is urgently given to the aid effort, Oxfam and Islamic Relief warned today. Nearly a quarter of the population are in need of emergency aid to survive because they do not have enough food to eat.

The aid agencies said they needed an additional $38 million to carry out their work and have been forced to delay aid programs due to start this month because of lack of funding. Oxfam’s program for Hajjah in northern Yemen, which was due to give 140,000 people cash to buy food, was put on hold two weeks ago. Another aid program to help over 300,000 people this July in the badly hit rural area of Al Hodeidah on Yemen’s west coast has been scaled back to help just 100,000.

Islamic Relief needs $2 million to help an additional 180,000 people with nutrition and early recovery assistance – none of this money has been raised to date. Oxfam is aiming to help one million people, but only has funding to reach a quarter of that figure.

Colette Fearon, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen, said:

“Yemen is dealing with a catastrophic food crisis and people really need our help. People are getting into worrying levels of debt just to get food for their families – and surviving on a meager diet of tea and bread. One woman told Oxfam how she planned to sleep in the day to avoid the hunger pangs. We have the capacity to respond – plans have been prepared and staff are ready. But lack of funding is severely limiting what we can do. If we got the money we needed today, we would be able to scale up straight away and begin reaching the people who desperately need our help.”

The warning came as the UN increased the amount of money being sought for its Yemen appeal in response to mounting needs. The appeal increased from $447 million to $591 million. It is just 42 percent funded. Some 10 million people – 44 percent of the population of Yemen – do not have enough food to eat. The UN estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life threatening levels of malnutrition.

Yemen is now in the midst of its hunger season, before the next harvest in October. The start of Ramadan is also pushing up prices in markets. For example, sugar and wheat prices have increased by 21 percent and 42 percent in rural areas compared to prices last month. The aid agencies called on more donors to fund the aid response, warning that failing to help people quickly could cost lives now and have serious consequences for Yemen for decades to come.

Hashem Awnallah, Islamic Relief’s Country Director in Yemen, said:

“One in three children under five in Al Hodeidah is acutely malnourished – double the level that constitutes an emergency in UN terms. Children are being taken out of school to work, and an increase in early marriage has been reported. As well as being dangerous for children’s health, this crisis could rob children of a decent future and lead them to poverty, alienation and unrest.”

The agencies said although $4 billion was pledged at the Friends of Yemen meeting in May, where world leaders met to discuss the country’s future, it is unclear when this money will arrive in Yemen and how this money will be spent. The agencies said donors needed to respond to humanitarian needs immediately and stressed that they should look beyond food aid. There is food available in markets in Yemen, but people cannot afford to buy it. The agencies said that donors can help poor Yemeni families by ensuring that they have the cash they need to purchase food.

Read this press release in Arabic (pdf 68kb)

Please tweet this story using #HungryinYemen.


Please consider helping fund our emergency work in East Africa. These Oxfam affiliates are running direct appeals for this food crisis:

Related links

Watch the audio slideshow: Yemen on brink of hunger catastrophe

Read the report: Where There’s a Will: Tackling the humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Learn more: Yemen crisis

We have the capacity to respond – plans have been prepared and staff are ready. But lack of funding is severely limiting what we can do.
Colette Fearon
Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen

Notes to editors

    • Islamic Relief is helping 72,000 people with food, healthcare and other support. It wants to reach an additional 180,000 people affected by the current food crisis.
    • Oxfam is currently distributing cash to 100,000 people in Al Hodeidah, and providing water and sanitation to 20,000 people across the country. It wants to reach one million people.
  1. A video news release showing the impact of the crisis can be downloaded.
  2. Photos of the crisis are available.

Contact information

For interviews and more information contact:

  • In Yemen – For Oxfam, Caroline Gluck on +967 737 892 535 or Amel Alariqi on +967 711112954
  • In Cairo – For Oxfam, Ihab el-Sakkout +20 12 777 03004
  • In the UK:
    • For Oxfam, Rebecca Wynn on + 44 (0) 7769 887139
    • For Islamic Relief:
      • Martin Cottingham on 07974 109 914 or
      • Safiya Sayed Baharun on 07872-403534
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