More than half a million people who have fled fighting in Yemen are facing a double threat of famine and near freezing temperatures, Oxfam said today as it called on the warring parties to respect the ceasefire agreed in Sweden last week.
People in Yemen – described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – who are forced to flee their homes are set for a winter struggle to survive in areas of the country that are one step away from famine. People in these areas are also often without adequate shelter to protect them or fuel to keep them warm as temperatures plummet.
Winter temperatures are likely to drop to below freezing in highland areas of Yemen and rain brought in by southwest winds can fall in heavy torrents, leading to flooding. Many of the 530,000 displaced people living in these areas are in makeshift shelters with no insulation or weatherproofing.
Humanitarian agencies have identified more than 75,000 displaced, vulnerable families in districts across the country who will need help to cope during the winter months, and there are likely to be more who haven’t been included in the assessment.
Despite the warring parties agreeing to a ceasefire and withdrawal of forces from the key city and port of Hudaydah at negotiations in Sweden last week, there have been clashes in recent days. Continued fighting will disrupt aid efforts and make it harder for Yemenis to survive the winter.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, said: “Freezing temperatures could be the final straw for families already struggling to survive desperate hunger. Imagine trying to survive a winter freeze in a tent, far from your home, without knowing where your next meal is coming from – that is the dreadful prospect facing tens of thousands of families.
“It is vital that the ceasefire holds so that aid is able to reach as many people as possible this winter, and those struggling to survive at least get a respite from the fighting. While a step in the right direction, the international community cannot assume that the agreements reached in Sweden will fix everything. They need to keep the pressure on the warring parties to work towards a peaceful solution to the conflict that will give the people of Yemen real hope.”
Malnourished people are less able to cope with disease and extreme temperatures. Food price rises have put the cost of basic necessities beyond the reach of many. The price of a month’s worth of essential food rose 15 per cent in October, the last month for which data is available. This basket of foods now costs 137 per cent more than it did before the conflict began.
Oxfam Austraila’s Humanitarian Manager Meg Quartermain said Oxfam was continuing to provide aid, including clean water and cash to buy basic food supplies, to people forced to flee their homes, but much more was needed.
“The Australian Government’s grant of $3 million of humanitarian funding in April was a welcome start to 2018 – this takes its total contribution to $23 million since April 2017,” Ms Quartermaine said. “Oxfam is calling on the Australian Government to use diplomatic channels to ensure a sustained peace agreement for Yemen.”