Yemenis displaced by conflict now face threats of looming famine

[IMG | SOURCE: | ALT: A 12-year-old displaced Yemeni boy stands inside the tent he shares with his family at the hosting site for the internally displaced in Marib, Yemen, March 2020. © UNHCR/Marie-Joëlle Jean-Charles]
A 12-year-old displaced Yemeni boy stands inside the tent he shares with his family at the hosting site for the internally displaced in Marib, Yemen, March 2020. © UNHCR/Marie-Joëlle Jean-Charles

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is today warning that hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Yemenis are at heightened risk of food insecurity as livelihoods have been lost to the combined effects of ceaseless violence and COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the latest UN food security survey in Yemen, food insecurity is prevalent in areas of conflict, where half of Yemen’s four million displaced population resides. They live in and around the 16 districts worst affected by acute food insecurity, in Marib, Al Bayda, Abyan, Taizz, Hadramautand and Al Jawf governorates. They are increasingly at risk of famine-like conditions.

Nearly 40 per cent of the most vulnerable displaced families say they have no access to income and 37 per cent were already eating less.

UNHCR is particularly concerned about the impact on the most vulnerable among the internally displaced people (IDPs). Today, one in four displaced families is headed by a woman or a girl of whom every fifth is under the age of 18.

Women are disproportionately impacted, in a country where socio-cultural norms often restrict their access to work. Many IDP women, including single and widowed women, report feeling excluded from humanitarian aid in Yemen because of cultural and social obstacles which restrict them from going out to provide for their families. For many, conflict, displacement and gender inequity only compound the hardships and difficulties they face.

With rampant inflation and few livelihood opportunities, families no longer can afford basic meals. To put food on the table, many displaced families are selling off belongings, pulling children out of school and sending them to work, begging on the streets, or eating just once a day.

UNHCR staff report that often a daily meal is nothing more than a bowl of rice, or a cup of tea with a piece of bread. Coping strategies such as limiting meal portions are most prevalent among displaced. An estimated four out of five displaced female-headed displaced families now resort to such measures.

Displaced parents are pushed to make difficult choices between providing food for their families and protecting them from communicable diseases, like cholera and novel coronavirus.

UNHCR, despite a funding crunch, is stepping up its support to the displaced families and their hosts in Yemen through direct cash assistance this winter. We have provided cash grants to more than 900,000 displaced Yemenis so far this year.

Our data shows that almost all the supported households, some 97 per cent, also use this assistance to purchase food. UNHCR’s efforts need continuous international support to deliver assistance to the displaced Yemenis most exposed to risk.

Six years of conflict have taken a brutal toll on civilians, pushing one in eight Yemenis into displacement. Action is needed now to shield them from hunger and famine.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

  • For Yemen, Duniya Aslam Khan,, +92 334 7961323
  • In Amman (regional), Rula Amin,, +962 790 0458 49
  • In Amman (regional), Andreas Kirchhof,, +962 791 825 473