Fresh Warning on Famine Looming in Yemen Again
Starvation again threatens Yemen. Roughly 80 percent of the country’s 30 million people require food aid and at least 16 Houthi-controlled districts in Yemen are believed to be in the IPC Phase 4 (Crisis) — one step away from famine. Despite this, and six years into the war in Yemen, parties to the conflict – including the Houthis, the Yemeni Government and the Saudi-led coalition – continue to obstruct the delivery of aid, including vital food aid, to food insecure populations.
The situation is compounded by donor fatigue. While the World Food Program had appealed for $2.4 billion for 2020 to cover Yemen’s humanitarian needs, it received only 21% of this amount in funds. Speaking to the New York Times, Mr. David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Program, said it would take $500 million in the next six months, “just to provide food to Yemenis at half the usual ration rate.” He added, “even if we get the money, we still may have famine” because of delays and obstacles to delivery.”
The situation is further compounded by the collapse in the value of Yemen’s currency, a fuel shortage and the novel coronavirus, which may be spreading unchecked in the country. As noted by David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Program, famine is “definitely knocking on the door – it’s looming”.
Global Rights Compliance (GRC) have been engaged on the issue of mass starvation in Yemen since 2017 as part of the project ‘‘Accountability for Mass Starvation: Testing The Limits of the Law” in conjunction with The Netherlands’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, and a range of civil society organisations, experts in governmental institutions and official organisations, as well as UN mechanisms with a mandate in food insecurity.
In 2018, GRC worked in collaboration with the World Peace Foundation to publish expert reports and policy papers on starvation in Yemen and assessed the violations and the prospects of accountability of those conflicts. GRC made formal submissions to the OHCHR Group of Eminent Experts for Yemen (GEE) in 2018 and continued to engage with them throughout 2019 and 2020, including hosting them at the Starvation Project End of Phase 1 Symposium in September 2019 and at a GRC Starvation Workshop in Beirut in February 2020.
In 2020, GRC analysed the impact of coronavirus on humanitarian access in starvation-affected Yemen and the relevant international legal framework of humanitarian access in Yemen as part of a blog on Just Security and hosted a webinar, with distinguished guests, on the human cost of starvation as a method of warfare, including its impact on stability, with unique field perspectives from the frontlines of Yemen, including the toll COVID-19 is taking on humanitarian needs and access. The webinar also discussed the response by the UN Security Council, past and prospective on this issue.
After a successful completion of Phase I of the Mass Starvation Project, GRC is gearing up towards Phase II of the project funded by The Kingdom of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, titled ‘Accountability for Mass Starvation: UNSC 2417 Implementation Mechanisms.’ The project will continue to provide the factual and legal basis for ensuring awareness of starvation as an intentional and avoidable act. GRC are also proud to partner with Mwatana on an upcoming investigation and report on the deliberate use of starvation in Yemen.
For more information on GRC’s work on starvation, see starvationaccountability.org