Food Insecurity and Environmental Catastrophe: The New Troubles Facing Yemen

Sheba Intelligence | 2024-03-04 12:28 PM UTC


The Red Sea escalation has sparked new troubles for Yemen, adding to the suffering of millions of people across the country. Presently, food insecurity and environmental catastrophe are the fresh challenges for a country beset by a nine-year-old civil war.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned of a further deterioration of the food insecurity situation in Yemen in the coming months due to the military escalation in the Red Sea.

The organization said in a recent report that Yemen relies heavily on imports to meet its food needs, as about 90% of basic grains are imported. It said that the current maritime crisis will disrupt or impede the movement of goods, leading to food shortages in the markets at least in the coming two months.

The UN agency also expected that the escalation of the Red Sea crisis would worsen food insecurity in Yemen during at least the next four months of 2024. The continued Houthi attacks on commercial ships passing through the Red Sea and the response of the international coalition led by Washington will affect the level of the flow of food and fuel imports to Yemeni ports, it said.

The flow of humanitarian aid to Yemen will also be impacted, and millions of people will lose access to food assistance, putting them at risk of hunger. The FAO said, "As a new level of conflict enters the Red Sea, this will complicate the process of delivering humanitarian aid to the country, as humanitarian organizations rely heavily on sea routes to import food, medicine, and other essential supplies."

Civilians in North Yemen have begun feeling the impact of the Red Sea escalation. Abdu Yahya, a 42-year-old  father of seven in Sanaa, told Sheba Intelligence that he received food every three months, including floor, sugar, and cooking oil. However, he got nothing over the last five months. He added, "It is a hard time for me and my family. Over the past few years, the food aid helped me protect my children against hunger. I do not know when I will start receiving aid again."

The other trouble Yemen is facing is the environmental catastrophe ensuing from the UK-owned sinking ships in the Red Sea close to the Yemeni coasts. According to the Yemen government, the Rubymar went down in the southern Red Sea on Saturday, March 2.

Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak, Yemen's prime minister, said in a post on X: "The sinking of the Rubymar is an environmental catastrophe that Yemen and the region have never experienced before. It is a new tragedy for our country and our people. Every day, we pay the price for the adventures of the Houthi militia …"

Environment experts have warned of the consequences of the sinking ships on maritime life. Ali Al-Sawalmih, director of the Marine Science Station at the University of Jordan, said releasing such large amounts of fertilizer into the Red Sea poses a serious threat to marine life.

He added, "An urgent plan should be adopted by countries of the Red Sea to establish monitoring agenda of the polluted areas in the Red Sea as well as adopt a cleanup strategy."

Sami Noman, a Yemeni Professor of Economics and Political Science at the University of Aden,  said that the repercussions of the ship's sinking are not limited to the environment but will also seriously affect the economy in  Yemen.

Noman explained that the ship contains very dangerous chemicals, and the release of such materials into the sea will lead to an environmental disaster that may last for a long time and affect marine life in the Red Sea, harming all countries bordering the Red Sea as a result of pollution of the marine environment.

According to Noman, this pollution will harm marine organisms, including fish,  which may threaten the residents of these countries who depend on fish for their living and harm the fishing sector, especially in Eritrea and Yemen.

The Houthis hit the Rubymar ship on February 18 when it was sailing in the Gulf of Aden. The Yemeni group began attacking ships in "solidarity" with Palestine in November last year. They vow to continue sinking more vessels.

"Yemen will continue to sink more British ships, and any repercussions or other damages will be added to Britain's bill," Hussein al-Ezzi, deputy foreign minister in the Sanaa-based Houthi government, said in a post on X on Sunday.

As the Houthis are determined to continue their military operations in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the Arabian Sea, war-torn Yemen is set to face more ordeals, including food insecurity due to shipping difficulties and maritime environmental crisis due to military operations in Yemeni waters.