UN Food Agency Says 13 Million Yemenis May Face Starvation

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- The head of the U.N. food agency has warned that 13 million Yemenis are headed for starvation due to a protracted civil conflict and a lack of funding for humanitarian aid.

In an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday, David Beasley said that Yemen was "in a very bad situation" with more than 40 percent of the population already relying on food supplies from the World Food Program.

"We're feeding 13 million people out of a nation of 30 million people, and we are running out of money," Beasley said, speaking from the capital, Sanaa.

Since the pandemic hit, more people have been facing the threat of starvation globally, which put tremendous pressures on the WFP, Beasley said. Now, 285 million people around the world face the threat of starvation, which makes it more difficult to attend to Yemen's needs, he added.

"We've got twice the number of people struggling around the world now," Beasley said. "So, what am I gonna do for the children in Yemen? Steal it from the children in Ethiopia, or Afghanistan, or Nigeria or in Syria? That's not right," he added.

Beasley said his agency was forced to cut rations in half for eight million Yemenis due to the shortage of funds.

"We may be cutting those down to zero. What do you think will happen? people will die. It will be catastrophic," he said.

According to the UN food agency, around 811 million people do not have enough food across the globe, and and estimated 45 million people in 43 countries are at risk of famine.

Beasley said the WFP needs an extra 9 billion dollars to meet the rising demand for food aid around the world.

"The $430 trillion worth of wealth in the world today, there should not be a single child dying anywhere on earth," he contended.

Yemen has been fighting a civil war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore Hadi and his internationally recognized government to power. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and caused a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.

"In Yemen, these children and these families have paid the price long enough for the war they're in. It is time for the war to end," said Beasley. "Right now what I see is children and families begging for food."