“Yemen is currently facing the world’s worst hunger crisis, with almost 18 million people throughout the country not knowing where their next meal is coming from,” AFP quoted World Food Programme (WFP) spokesman Herve Verhoosel addressing reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.
Over eight million people are already considered to be on the brink of famine in Yemen, he said, adding that the situation was being exacerbated by sky-rocketing food prices, which have soared by a third in the past year alone.
“If the situation persists, we could see an additional 3.5 million severely food insecure Yemenis, or nearly 12 million in total, who urgently require regular food assistance to prevent them from slipping into famine-like conditions,” he warned.
This means the UN agency will need more funding, Verhoosel told AFP, pointing out that “The more people [who need help], the more money is needed.”
Also Lise Grande, the agency’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told BBC on Sunday that Yemen could be facing the worst famine in 100 years if airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are not halted, the Guardian reported.
If the war continues, famine could engulf the country in the next three months, with 12 to 13 million civilians at risk of starvation, she added.
The WFP official in Geneva also lamented that due to the dire security situation in the port city of Hodeida, the UN agency still did not have access to some 51,000 tons of wheat stocks at its Red Sea Mills facility there, which would be enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
“We are doing everything we can to ensure access to these wheat stocks,” Verhoosel said.
Yemen’s air, land and sea ports are currently functioning, so WFP had several ships filled with aid headed towards Yemen, and is working to reposition stocks in case routes are cut off, he said.
The agency has also begun using the port of Salalah in Oman as a supplementary route, he said.
WFP currently has enough grains in Yemen to help 6.4 million people for two months.
But Verhoosel warned that distribution across the country was difficult at best, insisting that aid workers need access and guarantees that their neutrality will be respected.
“We need an end to the fighting,” he said.
The Saudi-led coalition has been locked in the stalemated war since 2015 to reinstate former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The UN officials’ comments came after the UN and humanitarian workers condemned an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen that killed at least 15 civilians near the port city of Hodeida on Saturday.
Hodeida, with its key port installations that bring in UN and other humanitarian aid, has become a flashpoint of a war being waged by Riyadh and its allies against the Arab world’s poorest nation that has killed more than 10,000 people.
The offensive on Hodeida launched on June 12 by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates is the largest battle yet in the three-year war.
The coalition has ignored repeated warnings that the heavily defended Red Sea port under attack will trigger a food and humanitarian crisis in an impoverished Yemen.