11 Million Yemenis Face Severe Food Insecurity Amidst Conflict
As Saudi Air Strikes Derailed Peace Negotiations
27 April, 2015
Conflict in Yemen has triggered food insecurity in the poverty-stricken country. The Food and Agriculture Organisation said recently: Amidst escalating conflict at a crucial time in the country’s cropping season, almost 11 million people in Yemen are severely food insecure and millions more are at risk of not meeting their basic food needs. Governorates in the far northwest and south are most severely affected by food insecurity, and around 850,000 children are acutely malnourished.
On the other hand, citing the United Nations envoy who mediated the Yemen peace talks a news exposes a fact: Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led air strikes began a month ago, derailing the negotiations.
The latest FAO-assessment of the food situation in Yemen said:
Increasing conflict in nearly all major towns across Yemen is disrupting markets and trade, driving up local food prices and hampering agricultural production, including land preparation and planting for the 2015 maize and sorghum harvests.
In a news release by FAO said:
10.6 million Yemenis are now severely food insecure, of which 4.8 million are facing "emergency" conditions, suffering from severe lack of food access, very high and increasing malnutrition, and irreversible destruction of livelihoods. More than half of Yemen’s population – some 16 million out of a total of 26 million — is in need of some form of humanitarian aid and has no access to safe water.
The UN agency said in mid-April:
The latest escalation of conflicts is expected to further increase food insecurity in the poverty-stricken country. Paradoxically, some 2.5 million food producers, including farmers, pastoralists, fishermen and agricultural wage labourers, are among those identified as food insecure.
“We are entering a crucial period for crop production in Yemen and now, more than ever, agriculture cannot be an afterthought if we want to prevent more people from becoming food insecure amidst this crisis,” said FAO Representative for Yemen, Salah Hajj Hassan.
According to FAO, in some areas, like the western port city of Hodeidah, food prices have doubled and fuel prices have quadrupled. Further increases are expected as a result of fuel shortages and the impact of civil unrest on imports and transportation networks across Yemen. While agriculture provides the livelihood of nearly two-thirds of Yemenis, the country also relies heavily on imports of staple crops.
At the same time, service infrastructure has collapsed and government safety net programs have been suspended, handing an extra blow to millions of poor households.
However, FAO and its partners have since 2014 been working to support local farmers and internally displaced people to strengthen their livelihoods by distributing crop production packages, home gardening kits and fisheries inputs. They have also provided vaccinated poultry and goats for backyard livestock production.
Additional animal vaccination drives and plant health campaigns have helped farmers protect their agricultural assets, such as livestock and trees, from disease and locust threats.
Since 2014, more than 90,000 people (13,450 families) have benefited from these FAO programs. Security conditions permitting, the Organization aims to reach nearly 235,000 people through its 2014-15 response plan for Yemen, but more funding is needed. Currently, only $4 million of the required $12 million have been made available for the livelihood programs.
“Even before fighting intensified this spring, Yemenis were in dire need of support to build up their agricultural production,” said Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, FAO Assistant Director-General for North Africa and the Near East.
Saudi air strikes
A news report by The Wall Street Journal said:
“Jamal Benomar, who spearheaded the negotiations until he resigned last week, told The Wall Street Journal the Saudi bombing campaign against Iran-linked Houthi rebels has hardened positions on a key point — the composition of an executive body to lead Yemen’s stalled transition. This will complicate new attempts to reach a solution, he said.
“‘When this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis,’ said Mr. Benomar, a Moroccan diplomat.”
The “Former U.N. envoy says Yemen political deal was close before Saudi airstrikes began” headlined report said:
“Most Yemeni political factions agree talks were progressing in the run-up to the Saudi air campaign, but their views vary on Mr. Benomar’s assertion that a deal was close.
“This round of U.N.-brokered talks — which began in January and included 12 political and tribal factions — represented a crucial part of a mission to install a unified government in Yemen, the poorest Arab country and home to al Qaeda’s most dangerous offshoot.”
The report by Joe Lauria and Margaret Coker said:
“The Houthi rebels, who have overrun significant parts of the country in the past eight months, had agreed to remove their militias from the cities they were occupying under the deal that had been taking shape. The U.N. had worked out details of a new government force to replace them, Mr. Benomar said.
“In exchange, Western-backed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has since fled the country, would have been part of an executive body that would run the country temporarily, Mr. Benomar said.
“The Houthis had agreed to that reduced role for Mr. Hadi until the Saudi military intervention began on March 26. At that point, the Houthis hardened their position on this key point and opposed any role for Mr. Hadi in government, Mr. Benomar said.”
The United Nations, April 26, 2015 datelined report said:
“Saudi-backed factions have also hardened their positions, saying the Houthis shouldn’t be granted political power.
“Several Yemeni political factions, which were also interested in power-sharing, said the military tensions in the capital led to feelings of unease during negotiations. In their takeover of the capital, the Houthis kidnapped members of rival political parties.
“‘We did not like the Houthi plan on the table, but we were willing to sign it since it reflected reality. It was either that or no deal,’ said Mohammed Abulahoum, president of Yemen’s Justice and Building Party.”
The report added:
“The air campaign transformed Yemen into a battlefield for a broader contest over regional power between Shiite Iran and Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia.
“The Saudis want to restore Mr. Hadi to the presidency and also support a separate armed political faction named Islah, which is anti-Houthi. Iran supports the Houthis, who abide by a Shiite offshoot of Islam. Many Yemenis accuse both countries of meddling in their affairs.
“The Houthis took over the capital San’a and the government and then advanced on the south. As they approached the port city of Aden, where Mr. Hadi had taken refuge, he fled the country and ended up in Saudi Arabia.
“Yemen’s troubles mark an abrupt turnabout from what the international community had once hailed as a success story.”
The WSJ report said:
“Mr. Hadi, his Saudi allies and other political factions opposed the terms for the presidency being hammered out by Mr. Benomar.
“‘A very detailed agreement was being worked out, but there was one important issue on which there was no agreement, and that was what to do with the presidency,’ Mr. Benomar said. ‘We were under no illusion that implementation of this would be easy.’
“Two other Arab states — Qatar and Morocco — were willing to host new rounds of Yemen peace talks. But after both countries joined the Saudi-led military coalition, the Houthis rejected those venues, according to Mr. Benomar.
“President Hadi has suggested that talks resume in the Saudi capital of Riyadh under Saudi auspices. But that was a non-starter for the Houthis.
“A senior diplomat familiar with the negotiations said the Saudis also intervened to prevent a power-sharing deal that would include the Houthis and that would give 30 % of the cabinet and parliament to women.
“Saudi Arabia declared last week that it was shifting to a new phase in the Yemen campaign more focused on seeking a political solution. But it left open the option of continued military action, and has kept up airstrikes at a robust pace since the declaration.”
On Saturday, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania was named as the new U.N. envoy for Yemen.
On Sunday, Yemeni officials reported several apparent strikes by the Saudi coalition against Houthi targets amid deadly clashes between Houthi militants and forces aligned with Mr. Hadi.
Strikes hit the capital San’a as well as targets in energy-rich Marib province, officials said. Several southern provinces also saw strikes, including one that hit a convoy of Houthi fighters heading to the southern port city of Aden.
Comments are moderated