Yemen: This is the world's largest food crisis


Key drivers and how WFP is responding

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Millions of people have been displaced by fighting and the latest food security assessment report shows that the situation in the country is worsening.

Hunger in Yemen

According to the latest food security assessment released in December 2018, 20.2 million (about 76 percent of the total population) would be facing life-threatening shortages of food without the assistance provided by the humanitarian community. This is roughly twice the population of Sweden.

This includes people who have been internally displaced, or IDPs.

3.34 million IDPs were displaced across 21 governorates mainly due to the conflict (2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview). 85 percent of the conflict related IDPs come from Taiz, Hajjah, Sana’a City, Sa’ada and Sana’a Governorates.

Armed Conflict

Armed conflict is the main driver of food insecurity in Yemen, limiting people's ability to access the food they need to survive.

Nearly 65 percent of people facing catastrophic food gaps live in four governorates: Hajjah, Hudaydah, Sa’ada and Taizz. These areas have experienced the most intense fighting – including air strikes, ground clashes and shelling – in the last year.

The United Nations are working to broker a peace deal between the warring parties. The UN Secretary General described the peace talks held in Sweden in December 2018 as a ‘very important step’ for achieving durable peace in Yemen.

Economic Collapse

The conflict has precipitated an economic collapse in Yemen that has further exacerbated the food security crisis. Food prices have sky-rocketed, compounded by reduced access and dramatic fluctuations in the Riyal. Unemployment rates have also soared, leaving basic foods unaffordable for many Yemenis.

High food prices force people to adopt negative coping strategies such as shifting to less preferred and cheaper food or cutting back on their number of meals.

Reliance on imports due to reduced local food production

Before the conflict, about 25 percent of all food was produced domestically with Yemen otherwise reliant on imports. In 2017 that figure decreased to less than 20 percent. Domestic food production in 2018 is estimated to have dropped even further.

Below average rainfall, higher prices for farming products such as seeds and fertilizer, fuel shortages, and ongoing fighting limiting access to fishing grounds and agricultural land, all contributed to a reduction in the local food production.

The cost of cooking fuel, particularly gas, has also risen sharply since February 2017. In areas close to the frontlines, cooking fuel has at times been unavailable.

This leaves Yemen even more reliant on expensive food imports or humanitarian assistance to survive.

Access to clean water

Millions on Yemenis struggle each day to find enough clean water for cooking and washing.

Yemen has also been hit by the world's worst cholera outbreak. Cholera is transmitted through contaminated water or food and thrives in areas that lack proper sanitation facilities. It has affected 1.3 million people and caused the death of 2,800 people. 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation and are at risk of contracting cholera.

The huge rise in cholera, malaria and acute diarrhoea in Yemen has compounded the country's malnutrition crisis. Yemen's health system is also nearing breaking point, suffering from acute shortages of fuel and medical supplies, which has left the country struggling to respond.

WFP's Response

WFP’s Yemen emergency response is our largest anywhere in the world. WFP is aiming to feed 12 million severely hungry people each month in 2019 – a 50 percent increase on the number of people we were assisting last year.

Our goal is to ensure that all families facing crippling food shortages receive the life-saving assistance they need each month.

WFP is aiming to progressively increase their support to reach all 12 million planned beneficiaries in a number of ways.

General Food Assistance

WFP provides monthly food rations to communities where the local market has largely collapsed due to the conflict.

Where the local markets are still functioning, WFP provides families with commodity vouchers or even cash to buy the same amount of food as provided in the monthly rations. In addition to helping families meet their daily food needs, the vouchers and cash provide an essential boost to the local economy, which is essential to set Yemen on the road to recovery.


WFP is scaling up its nutrition work to reach 3 million children under 5 and pregnant or nursing women in 2019.

In addition to a malnutrition treatment programme, WFP's nutrition work is also focused on 165 districts, where we are working to prevent women and children from becoming malnourished. WFP is running a blanket supplementary feeding programme that will provide nutrition support to 700,000 children under two and 300,000 pregnant or breastfeeding women.

But the situation in Yemen remains critical, particularly for children. Malnutrition today will have devastating consequences for Yemen’s future as it irreversibly stunts child’s growth and brain development. This will have a damning effect on Yemen’s productivity and GDP for generations to come, even after the conflict ends.

School Meals

Through its School Meals programme, WFP is currently providing 600,000 children with a daily nutritious snack. Our goal is to reach 900,000 children each day in 2019.

The school meals programme not only provides children with an essential nutrition boost, but also helps keep them in school.

Livelihood Activities

WFP will reach 350,000 people through livelihood activities in 2019.

Asset creation and livelihood activities provide a temporary social safety net to families in order to boost their access to food as well as increase their assets, skills and income.

Asset creation and livelihood activities are developed along three pillars:

Pillar 1: Early recovery and rehabilitation: WFP runs Food Assistance for Assets (FFA) programme to build and restore household and community assets, such as roads, toilets and water supply.

Pillar 2: Resilient markets & livelihoods: WFP seeks to boost the agricultural sector by providing Food Assistance for Assets and training to smallholder farmers.

Pillar 3: Youth & women empowerment: WFP provides Food Assistance for Training (FFT) to boost the basic and marketable skills of young people and women through literacy, numeracy and vocational training.

You can help save lives and support hungry families in Yemen who are relying on us for food. But WFP’s resources are stretched thin. WFP’s average monthly requirements in 2019 are set to increase to around US$176 million a month as we scale up our operations in Yemen.