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USG Lowcock reiterates need for ‘different decisions’ to avert possible famine in Yemen

10 Dec 2020

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Two-year-old Tawha lies next to his grandmother in the hospital. Tawha, whose family is from Aden, Yemen, suffers from severe acute malnutrition. Credit: OCHA/Giles Clarke 

With a look ahead to 2021, the UN and the international community came together today to shine a spotlight on the worsening situation in Yemen and discuss how to avert possible famine in the country.

The virtual event – titled Averting famine in Yemen: What can we do now and in 2021? – was hosted by the United Kingdom and Swedish Permanent Representatives to the UN and convened UN leaders, international governments and Yemeni social advocates to highlight the lack of funding hampering the humanitarian response in Yemen.

Speaking at the event, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock emphasized that the people of Yemen are being starved by a war that is pushing the country towards famine, a collapsing economy and decreased aid from donors this year.

“Violence is increasing. Economic support has dried up. And funding for the aid operation has plummeted,” Mr. Lowcock said.

“So, it’s unsurprising when we say that the results confirm that famine-like conditions are back in Yemen. Yemen is again being starved,” he added, reiterating what he told the UN Security Council on 11 November 2020.

During his presentation, the UN humanitarian chief showed participants photos of children in Yemen to amplify what the current situation actually means for people living in the country. One of the photos was of a young child in Aden named Abdo, who suffered from severe acute malnutrition and died a few days ago.

“There are millions of children just like Abdo right now in Yemen. And the situation they face, arises from the decisions that powerful people have taken. If we want to avoid a huge famine in Yemen, people need to take different decisions,” Mr. Lowcock said.

The event highlighted the critical role of the economy in preventing famine and called on all stakeholders to take steps to strengthen Yemen’s economy functioning and avoid measures that could weaken it further.

The Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC)’s new survey shows that 16,500 people are living in famine-like conditions, a figure expected to almost triple by June 2021. Overall, 13.5 million people in Yemen are currently at risk of starving to death or struggling to get enough food to feed their families amid ongoing conflict. By June 2021, this number may have increased by 3 million, meaning that more than half of the country may live in acute hunger.

At today’s event, donors were encouraged to step up with new funding before the end of the year and to prepare to give early and generously in 2021.

Other speakers at the event included Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF; Amir Abdulla, Deputy Executive Director of WFP; Per Olsson Fridh, Swedish State Secretary for International Development Cooperation; Nick Dyer, UK Special Envoy for Famine Prevention and Humanitarian Affairs; and Dr Sawsan Al Refaei, Board Member of Youth Leadership and Development Foundation in Yemen and member of Yemeni Women’s Pact for Peace and Security.

The photos presented by Mr. Lowcock can be seen on Exposure: Inside Yemen: A hospital on the frontline of Yemen’s food crisis.