The food-assistance branch of the United Nations has announced that it will reduce food rations for millions of Yemeni people from next month due to funding shortage, as a protracted Saudi-led bombing campaign pushes more people into hunger in the impoverished country.
In a statement released on Wednesday, the World Food Programme (WFP), which feeds 13 million Yemenis, said eight million will receive a reduced food ration from January, while five million at immediate risk of slipping into famine conditions will remain on a full ration.
Families on reduced handouts will receive barely half of the WFP's daily minimum ration, it added, warning that food assistance and child malnutrition programmes are also at risk of further cuts.
"Every time we reduce the amount of food, we know that more people who are already hungry and food insecure will join the ranks of the millions who are starving. But desperate times call for desperate measures and we have to stretch our limited resources and prioritize, focusing on people who are in the most critical state," said Corinne Fleischer, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.
More than half of Yemen’s 30 million population (16.2 million) face acute hunger, with half of the children under five (2.3 million) at risk of malnutrition.
Earlier, UN agencies, including the WFP, had warned of programme cuts in Yemen after they received only $2.68 billion of $3.85 billion requested from donors.
"The Yemeni people are now more vulnerable than ever, reeling from relentless conflict and the deepening economic crisis that has pushed millions into destitution," Fleischer said.
"WFP food stocks in Yemen are running dangerously low at a time when budgets for humanitarian crises around the world are stretched to the limit. We desperately need donors, who were so generous in the past, to work with us to avoid this looming hunger catastrophe."
The WFP has estimated that it needs $813 million to continue to help the most vulnerable in Yemen through May and $1.97 billion during 2022 to keep delivering food assistance to families on the brink of famine.
Saudi Arabia launched the devastating military aggression against its southern neighbor in March 2015 in collaboration with a number of its allied states and with arms and logistics support from the US and several Western states.
The aim was to return to power the former Riyadh-backed regime and crush the popular Ansarullah movement which has been running state affairs in the absence of an effective government in Yemen.
The war has stopped well shy of all of its goals, despite killing tens of thousands of Yemenis and turning entire Yemen into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Meanwhile, Yemeni forces have in recent months gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders and left Riyadh and its allies bogged down in Yemen.