A combination of food assistance and food production assistance is the only way to avoid famine in conflict-ridden Yemen where two-thirds of the population - 17 million people - are suffering from severe food insecurity, FAO Director-General José Graziano said today. "As the conflict continues, food security and nutrition will also continue to deteriorate," Graziano da Silva stressed in his address to a United Nations High-Level Pledging conference for Yemen organized in Geneva and co-hosted by the Governments of Switzerland and Sweden.
"To put these figures (the 17 million) into perspective, we are talking about the double of Switzerland's population being unable to meet their basic daily food needs," the FAO Director-General said. He stressed how livelihoods support, especially for agriculture and fishing, must be an integral part of the international community's response to the crisis in Yemen.
In 2016, agriculture production in Yemen and the area under cultivation shrank by 38 percent due to the lack of inputs and investments. Livestock production fell by 35 percent. "Agricultural assistance in a humanitarian crisis can no longer be an afterthought," the FAO Director-General said. "We need to seize every opportunity to support communities in Yemen to continue producing food, even under difficult circumstances."
FAO is working on the ground
Graziano da Silva noted how FAO "is on the ground" in Yemen, constantly working, together with its partners, to deliver emergency livelihood assistance to kick-start food production. So far this year, FAO has reached almost 300 000 people through a combination of interventions that enable them to produce nutritious food for their families and for sale. Almost 2 million households are in need of emergency agricultural support in Yemen.
FAO is also supporting efforts to revive livestock production, which is critical as a source of food and livelihoods for many people in Yemen. The agency is aiming to vaccinate or treat over 8 million animals in 2017. FAO stresses how livelihoods are people's best defence against hunger and catastrophe. Assisting people to maintain their livelihoods will allow them to defend themselves against hunger, and recovery will be both faster and cheaper.
Enabling local food production is crucial in that it is cheaper to buy locally grown food than imported food, it helps create and sustain jobs and it benefits the rural population which is difficult to reach with humanitarian assistance. The United Nations in Yemen has repeatedly appealed for all parties to the conflict to facilitate unconditional and sustained access so humanitarian organizations can scale up their assistance to meet the growing demands of people in the most acute need.