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Yemen’s Red Sea Crisis threatens peace as half of population faces food insecurity: FAO

Yemen’s Red Sea Crisis threatens peace as half of population faces food insecurity: FAO
6 May 2024 08:29

ISIDORA CIRIC (ABU DHABI)

As the first quarter of 2024 draws to a close, Yemen’s worsening Red Sea crisis compounds an already deteriorating food security situation, with nearly half of the population facing inadequate food consumption, the FAO Quarterly Food Security Update said on Sunday.

The proportion of households experiencing inadequate food consumption has alarmingly risen to 49% nationally, up from 43% in the previous quarter and 47% during the same period last year, the FAO report said, adding that this decline is anticipated to persist through September 2024, marking a distressing trend in the nation’s struggle against hunger and instability, the report revealed.

The underlying causes of this food insecurity are multifaceted, primarily driven by a sharp decrease in household purchasing power. This is attributed to fewer available opportunities in seasonal agricultural and casual labour, particularly in areas under Houthi control. These regions, including Al Jawf, Hajja, Taizz, Sa’adah, Marib, and Raymah, are experiencing the most significant declines in food consumption.

The economic landscape is further strained by severely delayed salary payments to civil servants and a reduction in humanitarian food assistance, forcing increased reliance on market purchases amid rising prices.

The food security crisis is compounded by a reduction in general food assistance in Houthi-controlled territories, exacerbated by the ongoing Red Sea crisis and a depreciating currency. The economic disruptions linked to the conflict in the Red Sea, which have drawn Houthi’s attention away from domestic affairs, are inadvertently inflating food prices due to heightened transaction costs and war insurance premiums, the report explained, posing a grave risk of increasing food prices beyond three-year averages in the short term.

Amid these economic challenges, Yemen also faces a health crisis with a resurgence of cholera. From March 14 to April 2, 2024, the Ministry of Health reported a troubling surge in suspected cholera cases, totalling 7,364, with 1,566 reported across 15 governorates. Among these, 260 cases have been confirmed, resulting in 66 deaths, FAO said, adding that the primary sources of contamination are raw vegetables, fruits, and contaminated water.

The continuous tension and sporadic skirmishes at the frontlines, which are anticipated to continue into the foreseeable future, disrupt livelihoods and markets, severely impeding household access to food and income.

Consequently, agricultural income has significantly decreased, with a notable decline of 71% in Houthi-controlled areas, compared to 60.3% during the same period in 2023. Moreover, off-farm casual labour also dwindled, reducing income for 78% of households located in Houthi-controlled areas.

The report warned that the ongoing Red Sea crisis is likely to persist into the foreseeable future, possibly jeopardising the peace process and negotiations, suggesting a prolonged period of hardship and instability for Yemen’s most vulnerable populations.

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