Yemen is facing unprecedented rises in the price of food putting millions more people in danger of catastrophic hunger, Oxfam warned today.
Already exhausted by over seven years of conflict, Yemen has been hit hard by the worsening global food crises. The prices of wheat, flour, cooking oil, eggs and sugar have all increased by more than a third since March. Such price hikes haven’t been seen since the country was subject to a blockade and never for such a prolonged period.
Yemen imports 90 per cent of its food, including 42 per cent of its wheat from Ukraine. Importers have warned that stocks may run out in the coming months and that global increase in costs will challenge their ability to secure wheat imports into Yemen. Even after last week’s welcome announcement that Ukraine will be able to export grains, the effects of the major disruption in the food supply will be felt for some time to come. Any drop in global prices could well be short-lived and may not translate into a reduction in cost for ordinary Yemenis. In a country where many people depend on bread for most of their daily food to survive, this could push millions towards starvation.
Ferran Puig, Oxfam in Yemen Country Director, said: “This unprecedented rise in food prices threatens the lives of millions of people who are now in real danger of starvation.
“Families who have been pushed to the brink by seven years of conflict are being tipped over the edge as the prices of basic food rises beyond their reach.
“World leaders must act immediately to prevent catastrophic hunger and a worsening humanitarian crisis.”
A temporary extension to the Yemen-wide truce in June has bought some relief, but the situation remains volatile and this, coupled with a wider economic crisis, rising food prices and an ailing agricultural sector – due in large part to the effects of climate change – is making life even harder for the Yemeni people – nearly 80 per cent of whom are in need of humanitarian assistance while the humanitarian response remains only 27 per cent funded.
Between March and June this year, the price of basic foods increased by up to 45 per cent.
- Flour increased by 38 per cent
- Cooking oil increased by 45 per cent
- Sugar increased by 36 per cent
- Rice increased by 30 per cent
- Canned beans increased by 38 per cent
- Powder milk increased by 36 per cent
- Eggs increased by 35 per cent
The average national price of the Minimum Food Basket (MFB) has increased by 48 per cent since December 2021 and 25 per cent since the start of the year, with the increasing costs of food imports further exacerbated by exchange rate fluctuations. Yemen’s national currency, the rial, has lost its value by 28 per cent since the beginning of the year.
Petrol and diesel prices also increased by 43 per cent in the first quarter of the year. Increased cost of fuel and an unseasonable drought caused by rising temperatures globally have caused more suffering, especially for farmers. Many Yemenis depend on agriculture and livestock as a main source of income but have seen their crops damaged or delayed and livestock dying during the current drought.
As the need grows, the lack of resources to respond comes with devastating consequences. The World Food Program has been forced to reduce the amount of aid it provides, with five million recipients of food aid now set to receive less than half of their daily calorie requirement. Eight million will receive just 25 per cent.
Families told Oxfam that to survive they are having to borrow from better-off neighbors, go into debt with food sellers, and skip meals so their children can have more to eat.
Around 56 per cent of the four million internally displaced people have no source of income at all. Women and children who make up around 77 per cent of the displaced population are at greatest risk of starvation.
Arwa, a divorced mother of two who also cares for her mother and sister said: “I struggle to afford basic food due to high prices. My mother and I reduce how much we eat, and only have two meals a day, so the children have enough. Before we could have chicken or fish every other day, or meat once a week, now we barely afford to have chicken once a week and prices of vegetables increased so we can’t afford even half of what we could last year.”
Oxfam in Yemen is supporting people to earn a living, providing basic services like clean water, sanitation, cash, and establishing solar energy at household and community levels. In 2021 we were able to help more than 23,000 households.
Oxfam is calling for the international community to facilitate the import of food supplies into Yemen by reducing obstacles, financing grain imports, and providing debt relief for Yemen.
Above all, Yemen needs a permanent end to conflict so people can safely live, learn, and earn a living. We are calling on all parties to extend the truce in the coming days as part of the path towards a sustainable peace.
Notes to editors
Source for per cent of grain imports: Yemen humanitarian response plan, April 2022: https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/yemen-humanitarian-response-plan-2022-april-2022
WFP beneficiaries in IPC phase four and five will now receive less than 50 per cent of their daily calorie requirement. The remaining eight million will receive just 25 per cent.