Yemen spiraling into major food crisis – UN expert warns against deliberate starvation of civilians
GENEVA (11 August 2015) – As Yemen plunges deeper into conflict, the country is now in the midst of a major food crisis,
the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Hilal Elver, has warned today.
“As the conflict continues to escalate, over 12.9 million people in Yemen are now surviving without adequate access to
basic food supplies, including six million who are deemed severely food insecure,” Ms. Elver said, expressing her deep
concern over the dire humanitarian situation currently ravaging the country.
“The situation facing children in the country is particularly alarming, with reports suggesting that 850,000 Yemeni
children face acute malnutrition, a figure that is expected to rise to 1.2 million over the coming weeks, if the
conflict persists as its present level,” she stressed.
Sieges in a number of governorates, including Aden, AL Dhali, Lahj and Taiz have been preventing staple food items, such
as wheat, from reaching the civilian population, while airstrikes have reportedly targeted local markets and trucks
laden with food items.
“The deliberate starvation of civilians in both international and internal armed conflict may constitute a war crime,
and could also constitute a crime against humanity in the event of deliberate denial of food and also the deprivation of
food sources or supplies,” Ms. Elver warned.
“The right to food does not cease in times of conflict, indeed it becomes more crucial as a result of the acute
vulnerabilities in which individuals find themselves,” the Special Rapporteur noted. “Parties to the conflict must be
reminded of their obligations under international humanitarian law to ensure that civilians and prisoners of war have
access to adequate food and water during armed conflict.”
The human rights expert explained that “in a country that relies on imports for 80 per cent of its food intake, current
restrictions have resulted in steep price hikes, which, combined with increases in the price of diesel by some 47 per
cent, are having a devastating impact on food security.”
“An immediate and unconditional humanitarian pause in hostilities must be put in place to allow humanitarian aid and
food to reach all people of Yemen,” Ms. Elver said, recalling that the ceasefire that was to take effect on 10 July 2015
until the end of Ramadan in order to ensure that vital food aid and medical supplies reach vulnerable civilians caught
up in the conflict was not implemented.
The Special Rapporteur also warned about the shortfall in funds necessary to prevent a deepening national catastrophe in
Yemen. “I call on the international community to do everything possible to provide on an emergency basis the necessary
funding as well as essential aid,” she said.