Children forced to beg or work as hunger eclipses fear of Covid-19 in Yemen


Hikes in food, water and petrol prices adds to ‘triple emergency’, as coronavirus spreads unchecked and humanitarian aid dwindles

Yemeni children wait to get food rations from a charity group in Sana’a, Yemen, on 4 May 2020. According to reports, nearly 80 percent of Yemen’s 27 million-population rely on humanitarian aid.
 A rise in child marriage has also been reported as families struggle to feed their children. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

Families in Yemen are having to send their children out to work and to beg as concerns mount over rising food, water and petrol prices, a survey has found.

Despite coronavirus spreading undetected across the war-ravaged nation, data collected from more than 150 households in three provinces of southern Yemen found that respondents were more worried about going hungry than contracting Covid-19. The International Rescue Committee (IRC), which led the survey, found nearly two-thirds (62%) of respondents reported being unable to afford food and drinking water. Prices for sugar and vegetable oil have jumped by more than 25% in the past year.

Food insecurity is a major concern in Yemen, where a resurgence in fighting, coupled with decreased humanitarian funding and access, has left millions at risk. An estimated 3.2 million people – 40% of the population – are currently facing acute food insecurity, and almost half of all Yemeni children under five will be malnourished by the end of 2020. Food rations for north Yemen have already been cut in half since April, and an additional 5m people will lose access to food assistance in November without more funding, says the IRC.

“The nightmare Yemenis are living through continues to get worse with each passing day,” said Tamuna Sabadze, IRC’s Yemen country director.

“With Covid-19 spreading unchecked, dwindling humanitarian funding, and increasing fighting and airstrikes, Yemen is experiencing a triple emergency. This survey brings to life the terrible economic impacts Covid-19 is having on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable.

“In order to feed their families, respondents indicated they have had to take on debts which they can’t afford to repay, reduce the amount of food they are consuming, sell off assets like land or livestock, and some have even had to send their children to work or to beg,” Sabadze said.

Although to date fewer than 1,900 Covid-19 cases have been officially recorded, the true figure is likely to be considerably higher due to underreporting and a lack of testing.

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Categories: Arab World, Asia, Yemen

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