Fri Feb 10, 2017 10:40PM
A Yemeni infant suffering from malnutrition waits for treatment at a medical center in Bani Hawat, on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, on January 9, 2017. (Photos by AFP)
A Yemeni infant suffering from malnutrition waits for treatment at a medical center in Bani Hawat, on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, on January 9, 2017. (Photos by AFP)

Three United Nations agencies have launched an emergency food aid appeal to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in war-torn Yemen as more than two-thirds of Yemenis are struggling to feed themselves under an incessant barrage of bombs being dropped by Saudi warplanes over the past two years.  

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP) said in a joint statement on Friday that the number of food insecure people in Yemen had risen by three million during the past seven months, reaching an estimated 17.1 million people and exceeding two-thirds of the entire population of 27.4 million.

The trio, which conducted the assessment in cooperation with the authorities in Yemen, also warned about the unprecedented levels of hunger across the country, saying that about 7.3 million of the affected people were considered to be in need of emergency food assistance.

“The speed at which the situation is deteriorating and the huge jump in food insecure people is extremely worrying,” cautioned FAO’s representative in Yemen, Salah Hajj Hassan.

According to the assessment, the rates of acute malnutrition are found to have crossed the “critical” threshold in at least four provinces of Abyan, Hudaydah, Hadhramaut and Ta'izz, while agricultural production, as the “main source” of livelihood for the majority of the population, is falling across the country.

The acute malnutrition and the sacristy of food are particularly taking their devastating toll on Yemeni children, as Meritxell Relano, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, warned that if the severely malnourished children were not treated on time, they would “risk not fulfilling their developmental potentials.”

A Yemeni boy looks on as Yemenis search under the rubble of damaged houses following Saudi airstrikes on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital Sana’a, on February 1, 2017.

WFP Country Director Stephen Anderson also raised the alarm, saying the current level of hunger in the impoverished country was unprecedented, “which is translating into severe hardship and negative humanitarian consequences for millions of Yemenis, particularly affecting vulnerable groups.”

On Wednesday, the UN pleaded for over two billion dollars in funds after warning that the country’s entire population could be on the brink of famine.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency announced that at least 34,000 Yemenis had been displaced amid the latest escalation of fighting between Yemeni forces and the Saudi-led troops along Yemen's western coastline.

UN urged to lift Saudi-imposed blockade 

Also on Friday, the popular Houthi Ansarullah movement called on the UN to take action against the Saudi war machine.

“The United Nations should take a serious stance against the foreign aggression in Yemen and end the air and naval blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia,” the movement said in a letter to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Saudi Arabia has been engaged in the deadly campaign since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstate Yemen’s resigned president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh, and undermine the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The Saudi war has so far claimed the lives of at least 11,400 Yemenis, and taken a heavy toll on the country’s facilities and infrastructure, destroying many hospitals, schools, and factories.