No fuel vessels have been allowed to berth at Yemen’s Al Hodeidah port since 3 January. Thirteen fuel vessels carrying over 350,000 metric tons of commercial fuel are currently being held off Yemen’s coast.
A lack of fuel has left the population struggling to reach markets, access health facilities and other vital services. Meanwhile, people are queuing for up to three days to refuel their cars or forced to turn to the parallel market where prices are 180 percent higher.
These acute fuel shortages threaten the availability of clean water and electricity supply. Health facilities that rely on fuel for generators are without power. Higher fuel prices also mean higher food prices at a time when over 16 million food insecure Yemenis are already struggling to afford basic foods, all coming together and culminating in another shock that will further heighten the fragility of those most vulnerable.
The humanitarian community and commercial actors’ small reserves are also at unprecedented lows. WFP’s ability to deliver lifeline food assistance after March is hanging in the balance.
Food security projections for 2021 warn that nearly 50,000 people are facing famine-like conditions with 5 million people just a step away. A further 11 million people are struggling to each day to feed themselves and their families. But these forecasts do not factor in the economic and humanitarian impact of a fuel crisis meaning they risk underestimating the scale of suffering right now in Yemen.
WFP issues an urgent appeal for all parties to reach an agreement that allows entry and distribution of fuel for civilians and the commercial sector through Al Hodeidah port, echoing similar and repeated calls by the UN Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen, Martin Griffiths.
The fuel shortages are yet another threat to a population already on the brink. The spectre of famine grows by the day and the cycle of hunger and conflict continues. Action must be taken to protect the lives and livelihoods of Yemeni civilians.
The United Nations World Food Programme is the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. We are the world’s largest humanitarian organization, saving lives in emergencies and using food assistance to build a pathway to peace, stability and prosperity for people recovering from conflict, disasters and the impact of climate change.