GENEVA (Reuters) – The World Food Programme plans to double its food assistance program for Yemen, aiming to reach up to 14 million people “to avert mass starvation”, it said in a statement on Thursday.
“Yemen is the largest hunger crisis in the world. Millions of people are living on the edge of famine and the situation is getting worse by the day,” said the U.N. agency, which is already providing food assistance to 7-8 million Yemenis.
“WFP food and other humanitarian support has been instrumental in helping to prevent famine, but the indications are that even greater efforts will be needed to avert mass starvation.”
Food security experts including U.N. and Yemeni government officials conducted an assessment in Yemen last month and are expected to issue their report this month, declaring whether or not parts of the country are in famine.
The last report in March 2017 stopped short of declaring famine but said 6.8 million people were in an “emergency”. The new report could put the number at 12 million-14 million, the WFP statement said.
“This would mean nearly half the population having so little to eat that they are just one step away from starvation.”
The hunger crisis is man-made, caused by Yemen’s civil war, economic collapse and problems getting shipments into the country, which traditionally relies on imports for well over half its food.
Most of the aid would be food supplies but some would be given in cash-based transfers, WFP said.
The U.N. children’s agency UNICEF says a child dies every 10 minutes in Yemen from diseases that could easily be prevented, and half of Yemeni children are chronically malnourished.
According to the World Health Organization, acute malnutrition affects 1.8 million children under five, and about a third of Yemen’s districts are at risk of sliding into famine.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey