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By Tom Miles
GENEVA Feb 10 Yemen's estimated supplies of
wheat will run out at the end of March, the U.N. Food and
Agriculture Organization said on Friday in a report.
It suggests Yemen, an impoverished country crippled by war
and on the brink of a major famine, is facing an even more
urgent wheat crisis than previously thought. On Jan. 27, the top
U.N. aid official in the country told Reuters that Yemen had
roughly three months' supply.
"Yemen is facing the largest food security emergency in the
world. Without immediate action, the situation is likely to
worsen in 2017," the FAO report said.
After almost two years of war between a Saudi-led Arab
coalition and the Iran-allied Houthi movement, more than 80
percent of Yemenis are in debt and over half of all households
are buying food on credit, with 7.3 million people classed by
the U.N. as "severely food insecure".
That means they "do not know where their next meal is coming
from", said U.N. humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien, who
launched an appeal this week for $2.1 billion for food and other
Yemen's biggest traders have stopped new wheat imports due
to a shutdown in trade finance and the absence of import
guarantees from the central bank, Reuters reported in December.
"Given that the country is dependent on imports for more
than 90 percent of its wheat supplies, this would hasten the
decline of food availability in local markets and drastically
increase food insecurity in Yemen," the FAO said.
The Saudi-led coalition imposes strict conditions on the
ports that it controls, and the main port of Hodeidah is badly
damaged. The U.N., which is hoping to bring in four new mobile
cranes to ease congestion at the port, said on Friday that air
strikes on Hodeidah had intensified.
To complicate matters, Yemen's chaotic security situation
means that desert locusts are breeding in several areas on the
Red Sea Coast and Gulf of Aden, which could further damage the
country's already struggling agriculture sector.
Locust experts say it has been impossible to carry out
proper monitoring and control of the locust situation within
The FAO report said almost 1.5 million households engaged in
agriculture lacked access to critical inputs such as seeds,
fertiliser, fuel for irrigation or animal feed.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; editing by Andrew Roche)