UN Agency: Yemen Facing ‘Catastrophic’ Food Shortage amid Pandemic
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Monday warned that Yemen, already reeling from five-plus years of civil war, was facing “catastrophic” food shortages amid the coronavirus pandemic. The conflict between a Saudi-led coalition of Sunni countries and Iranian-backed Shi’ite Houthis has wreaked havoc on what was already the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest nation, pushing millions to the brink of starvation and destroying much of the country’s health infrastructure. To date, the internationally recognized Yemeni government, which was forced into exile after the Houthis overran the capital Sanaa in late 2014, has reported some 130 cases of coronavirus in territories it now controls. The Houthis, who still maintain an iron grip on most large urban areas, have confirmed only four diagnoses, prompting the World Health Organization to warn last week that the virus was circulating undetected throughout the country. There are currently an estimated 16 million Yemenis out of a population of about 28 million classified as food insecure, and anticipated lockdowns to prevent the spread of the contagion are likely to impact humanitarian supply chains. The FAO also noted that Yemenis would be hit hard by an expected decline in remittances from citizens working in coronavirus-plagued Gulf states, a sum that totaled $3.8 billion in 2019.