A girl in Yemen collecting water from Action Against Hunger's WASH programme in Al-Hali.

Yemen called the "worst humanitarian crisis" by UN

Action Against Hunger and other humanitarian organisations call for urgent action from the UK Government on Yemen's war to prevent famine spreading across the country. 

By Action Against Hunger

Nov 13 2018

The United Nations last month warned that there could be just three months left to avoid what could be ‘the worst famine in 100 years’, adding that a coalition military offensive on the rebel-held port of Hodeidah would have an ‘incalculable human cost’. 

Recent advances by pro-government forces in and around Hodeidah and the consequent cutting off routes to the north and east of the country have pushed the country towards the brink of famine. Already, half a million people have been displaced in Hodeidah governorate, and further attacks will likely result in a new wave of displacement as people flee fearing the conflict. Yemen produces just 20 percent of the food needed to feed its population, and is highly dependent on imports.

Hunger has been weaponised by all parties in the Yemen conflict. Action Against Hunger has joined with a group of humanitarian agencies to call for UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to use the UK’s influential position as pen-holder on Yemen in the UN Security Council to push urgently for a ceasefire, and to urge parties to the conflict to end violations against civilians and agree to concrete measures to address the humanitarian situation.

Around 14 million people are on the brink of famine in Yemen. The need for peace has never been more urgent. We welcome Jeremy Hunt’s recognition of the humanitarian catastrophe the country faces, and his pursuit of new peace negotiations. Humanitarian agencies will be watching closely to see this translated into a ceasefire on the ground, and a lifting of restrictions on humanitarian supplies and access.


Dear Foreign Secretary,

As humanitarian aid organisations working in Yemen, we were encouraged by your recent announcement that the UK will pursue Security Council action to support the peace process in Yemen. This followed last week’s long over-due call for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen by Secretary of Defense Mattis and Secretary of State Pompeo.

With 14 million children, women and men – half the country’s population – on the brink of famine, there has never been a more urgent time to act. What the country needs most right now is an immediate end to the fighting. We call on the UK, as pen holder on Yemen at the United Nations, to take the lead and table a new UN Security Council Resolution as soon as possible to push warring parties towards a peaceful solution. This should start with a call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a comprehensive ceasefire across the whole of Yemen.

The catastrophic food shortages in Yemen are entirely human made and a direct consequence of the warring parties’ severe restrictions on access to food, fuel, medical imports and humanitarian aid. The collapse of the Yemeni Rial and the non-payment of public sector workers is adding to the tragic situation.

Civilian deaths have increased dramatically in recent months – with 450 civilians killed in just nine days in August. Violence against women and girls has also risen significantly since the conflict escalated.

Beyond calls for a ceasefire, we call on the UK Government to use its influence to urge parties to the conflict to end violations against civilians, and to agree to concrete measures to address the humanitarian situation. This includes removing obstructions to vital humanitarian and commercial access, and agreeing on a plan to pay public sector salaries.

The situation in Yemen is the most severe humanitarian disaster on the planet right now. Should nothing change, the UN warns that the country will face the worst famine in a generation. Recent calls by the US Government for a cessation of hostilities are a welcome recognition that current policy is failing and presents a significant opportunity to focus efforts on a political solution. Given the UK’s power and influence, and your commitments to upholding our country’s values, you have a unique opportunity to show leadership and deliver a lasting peace for Yemen’s beleaguered civilian population.

Yours sincerely,

Action Against Hunger
CARE International UK
Christian Aid
International Rescue Committee (IRC)
Islamic Relief UK
Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC)
Oxfam GB
War Child


Since the start of the devastating war, Action Against Hunger has been providing humanitarian assistance to affected populations across Yemen. Despite difficult access, our teams reached more than 600,000 beneficiaries in 2017. Our nutrition and health programmes provide support for acutely malnourished children under five and their mothers; food security and livelihoods programmes through the direct distribution of food or money and/or food coupons; and water, sanitation and hygiene programmes including promotion and distribution of kits, and rehabilitation of water points and latrines. We have trained health workers and treated nearly 30,000 suspected cases of cholera at an Action Against Hunger-supported hospital near Hodeidah.


Images: Florian Seriex for Action Against Hunger