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Yemenis struggle to find bare essentials three years on from first Saudi airstrikes

By Oxfam

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Food price shock adds to war’s misery

Three years after a Saudi-led coalition carried out its first airstrike in Yemen, the humanitarian situation in the country is worse than ever before. People in Yemen are struggling to survive on dirty water and meagre portions of bread due to rapid inflation and skyrocketing prices for food and other essentials.

Families in remote areas of Amran governorate in the northwest of the country told Oxfam they could only afford a half bag of wheat each month and had to walk almost two miles two or three times a day to fetch untreated water from a well. Several women told Oxfam they were struggling to make ends meet and had no money for clothes or other supplies after their husbands had been killed in the conflict.

Since the war started, the cost of food has rocketed. Rice is up 131 percent, beans 92 percent, vegetable oil 86 percent and flour for making bread up 54 percent. Over the same period the number of people going hungry increased by 68 percent to reach almost 18 million people.

Over 3 million people have been forced to flee their homes, more than 5,500 civilians have been killed and 2,000 more have died of cholera in a country where half of the health facilities are no longer functioning because of the conflict.

Scott Paul, Oxfam America’s Humanitarian Policy Lead said:

“Three years since the Saudi-led coalition first intervened with US support, Yemen is teetering on the brink of famine. Families face a daily struggle to find bare essentials like food and clean water. The people of Yemen caught in this crisis seem invisible to those responsible for their misery – the parties to the conflict and the regional and global powers behind them. They are left mourning their loved ones in a country of empty schools, ruined hospitals, and destroyed infrastructure.  The parties and their international backers prefer to continue this gruesome stalemate rather than make real compromises to achieve peace and save lives.

“The recent UN Security Council Presidential Statement, appointment of a new UN Special Envoy, and Congressional attention are positive. But to Yemenis, none of it matters if it does not lead to a political agreement, economic recovery and a government willing and able to respect their rights and provide basic services.”

Despite peace talks in 2016, it appears that parties to the conflict have continued to pursue narrow military gains at the expense of political progress. The appointment last month of Martin Griffiths as the new UN Special Envoy to Yemen, and recent UN Security Council calls for moves towards a ceasefire and to ensure essential goods are given free passage, present an opportunity for the international community to reinvigorate efforts to achieve peace. 

Oxfam is working in Amran and eight other governorates, trucking water and providing cash for people there to buy food and has helped over 2.8 million people since July 2015. But the closure of sea and air ports has hampered efforts to get food, water, fuel and medicines to all those who need them. With 22 million people in need of aid across the country, Yemen is already the world's worst humanitarian crisis and the site of the largest cholera outbreak since records began, with over a million suspected cases.