Coronavirus: Yemen faces hunger crisis as families lose income

The country has recorded more than 1,600 infections and about 460 deaths since the pandemic began

People crowd to get food rations from a charity kitchen in Sanaa, Yemen July 20, 2020. Picture taken July 20, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah
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Hunger is increasing in Yemen due to families losing at least half of their income as coronavirus spreads across the country, the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Wednesday.

The country has recorded more than 1,600 infected cases of the virus and 456 deaths since the pandemic began.

But since the first Covid-19 patient was reported in April, the true scale of the outbreak has been impossible to determine.

A survey conducted by the council found that one in four vulnerable families have lost all their income since the outbreak began the country.

The survey showed that 94 per cent of families reported a lack of food as a top concern and almost 50 per cent of respondents said they lost at least half of their income, just as prices for food and water went up.

"The coronavirus pandemic, coming on top of a lethal confluence of other challenges, has accelerated the misery of the poorest nation in the region, with more families already in poverty earning even less and facing more hunger," the council's country director for Yemen, Mohamed Abdi, said.

“The families we spoke to were already on the edge of survival and now almost all of them tell us their situation is worse."

The UN said Yemen was facing the world's worst humanitarian crisis with about 24 million people, about 80 per cent of the population, dependent on aid to survive and millions on the brink of starvation.

Families interviewed by the council said they had to flee their homes because of the war and were now living in inadequate, overcrowded conditions.

People are working for low pay to support their families.

“Our main meal is bread and tea. Even potatoes are out of reach,” said Abdulrahman, a former fisherman from Hodeidah who was surviving on aid.

He was working as a labourer but that has now dried up.

Never before have Yemenis faced so many threats at once and all this at the height of a devastating pandemic, Mr Abdi said.

He called for a ceasefire and rescue packages for the millions of displaced people.