Yemen conflict leaves 17m people at risk of malnutrition

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As Yemen’s conflict continues, two thirds of the country’s population are now suffering from severe food insecurity.

According to figures announced by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, 17m Yemenis are at risk of malnutrition unless outside help is provided.

The UN body’s director-general, José Graziano da Silva, said  the only way to combat this food shortage would be to kick-start food production and provide food assistance as nutrition levels continue to deteriorate.

"To put these figures into perspective, we are talking about the equivalent of twice the population of Switzerland being unable to meet their basic daily food needs," he told a high-level pledging conference in Geneva organised by the Swiss and Swedish governments.

"As the conflict continues, food security and nutrition will also continue to deteriorate,” he said, adding that supporting livelihoods, especially for farm workers and fishermen, must be an integral part of the international community's response to the crisis.

Agriculture production shrank by 38% last year due to a lack of inputs and investment. Almost 2m households are now in need of emergency agricultural support, and livestock production fell by 35%

"Agricultural assistance in a humanitarian crisis can no longer be an afterthought," Graziano da Silva said. "We need to seize every opportunity to support communities in Yemen to continue producing food, even under difficult circumstances."

So far in 2017, the FAO has reached almost 300,000 people through a combination of interventions designed to help them produce nutritious food for consumption or sale.

It has also been supporting efforts to revive livestock production, and aims to vaccinate or treat over 8m animals this year.

Enabling local food production is crucial in that it is cheaper to buy locally grown food than imported food,” the UN body said in a statement. “This helps create and sustain jobs and it benefits the rural population which is difficult to reach with humanitarian assistance.

As the conflict rages on, livelihoods are the 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.”

The UN’s Yemen operation has also been appealing for all parties in the conflict to allow unconditional and sustained access for humanitarian bodies to scale up their assistance of people in the most acute need.

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