World Food Crisis: the “Forgotten Children” of Yemen

The world food supply, which was already at critical levels last year due to various “green deal” programs, is taking a huge blow from the war in Ukraine. The price of grains has exploded over the past weeks, as both Russia and Ukraine have partially suspended exports of wheat and fertilizers (cf. SAS 10, 11/22). UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told reporters March 13 that 45 African and least developed countries import at least one-third of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia, and 18 of them at least 50%. Among those countries are Egypt, Congo, Burkina Faso, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, he added.

According to World Food Program Executive Director David Beasley, up to now, fully half the grain the WFP has bought to reach the 125 million people worldwide it helps feed, has come from Ukraine. The somber forecast was also underscored by Maximo Torero, the Chief Economist of the FAO, in a March 17 interview on CGTN. In addition to the cutoff of grains and edible oils from Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, the spring planting will be limited in Ukraine and possibly in Russia, while the rising costs of energy [not due however to the conflict] and of scarcer fertilizers are expected to dampen crop output elsewhere, he explained.

The situation is particularly life-threatening in Yemen, as we have consistently reported. About 30% of the wheat consumed in the country has come from Ukraine until now. In a press release issued March 14, the WFP, the FAO, UNICEF and other UN agencies warned that “today, more than 17.4 million Yemenis are food secure (phase 3 and above), and an “additional 1.6 million are expected to fall into emergency levels of hunger in coming months, taking the total of those with emergency needs, to 7.3 million by the end of the year”. The latter figure is about one fourth of the total Yemeni population of 29 million.

According to a March 14 article in Common Dreams, some 2.2 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, and 538,000 of them severely malnourished. And 1.3 million pregnant and lactating women are also suffering from acute malnutrition.

For David Beasley, “these harrowing figures confirm that we are on a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen and we are almost out of time to avoid it. Unless we receive substantial new funding immediately, mass starvation and famine will follow. But if we act now, there is still a chance to avert imminent disaster and save millions.” He fears that the malnourished children of Yemen “have been forgotten by the world”.

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