"Famine-like conditions" have been detected in areas of Yemen, although an official declaration of famine has yet to be made, the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) told Reuters on Thursday. Yemen is reeling from two years of civil war that pits the Iran-allied Houthi rebels against a Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
At least 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting that has unleashed a humanitarian crisis. The impoverished country is among four - along with South Sudan, Somalia and northeast Nigeria - that face famine, although it has only been declared in some areas of South Sudan. "There are famine-like conditions in the country," WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella told Reuters in response to a query. Such conditions prevail in parts of Taiz, Hodeida, Lajh, Abyan and Sadaa, although access is difficult, she said, speaking from WFP headquarters in Rome. "Those are priority governorates, districts where there are areas where there are famine-like conditions," she said, adding that families in these areas receive full rations.
Some 6.7 million people in Yemen are classified in phase 4 on an international scale of food security, with phase 5 constituting a famine, she noted. "We really need to act now before it falls into official famine." Yemen has been wracked by chaos since late 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country. The conflict escalated in mid-2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a major air campaign aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen's embattled Saudi-backed government.