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Yemen, Famine and Global Poverty

As the dangers of the onset of famine in Yemen spread like the hood of a King Cobra, global poverty rises in more than two decades. The World Bank Group estimates global poverty to rise for the first time in 20 years on the back of the COVID-19 pandemic and global recession. According to the report Poverty and Shared Prosperity 2020, an additional 88 to 115 million people will fall into extreme poverty this year with another incremental of 23 to 35 million people in 2021. Extreme poverty is defined as earnings less than $1.9 per day. The report analyses the effect of COVID-19, armed conflict, and climate change on global poverty and estimates climate change to push additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore “The situation is already catastrophic, and without urgent action, more children will die. We have prevented famine in Yemen before, and we should be able to prevent it again, with increased support and with unimpeded access to every child and family in need.”

Four months ago, a Reuters photo of 10-year-old Hassan Merzam Muhammad, who weighed about 9 kg, left the world heart-stricken putting the plight of Yemen citizens to a global audience. The situation in war-torn Yemen is increasingly growing grim with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the UN World Food Programme (WFP), and UNICEF, warning the window to prevent famine is rapidly dwindling. According to New Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), phase 5, the most catastrophic phase of food insecurity is rising at an alarming rate from 16,500 people to a predicted 47,000 people between January and June 2021. 5 million people will be in the phase 4 zone in the first half of 2021, the Emergency phase, a ~39 percent rise from the present estimates.

Image: Reuters/Eissa Alragehi

 

The situation is so grave that by mid-2021, over half of Yemen’s 30 million population could be facing crisis levels of food insecurity (Phase 3+) if no intervention is initiated. Further, the country remains vulnerable to external aid, with 70 percent living in rural areas. The conflict must end to sustain the economy by creating jobs backed by abundant skilled labor and reinstating primary healthcare and education systems. The onset of the pandemic, fall in remittances, fuel embargo, and reliance on import for 80 percent of its food have further accelerated the rise in food prices and insecurity among Yemen’s population. UNICEF is driving charity for the children of Yemen. However, a global consensus is required to end the conflict to avoid an unprecedented disaster in Yemen. However, Yemen is not alone in facing the risk of famine. Selected countries in the sub-Saharan region face food shortages due to conflict, fostering the path to increased global poverty, enhanced by the proliferation of novel coronavirus.