Famine in War-torn Yemen has Calamitous Effects on Women and Girls

War-torn Yemen finds itself once again on the verge of famine amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Described as one of the worst humanitarian crises worldwide, the five-year long conflict generated a dire economic situation as a result of low capacity to import products on which the country depends, causing soaring food prices.

In the face of the lockdown measures implemented to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, approximately 10 million people are facing acute food shortages. The measures exacerbate already-existing socio-economic challenges by restricting people to work or find work to feed themselves and their families. To make the situation even worse, the humanitarian aid funding required to sustain the population is no longer available as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Access to healthcare services is therefore expected to shrink or even collapse, as more than half of the medical facilities have been rendered dysfunctional, and as the number of medical doctors and staff is reduced on a daily basis due to little available protection from Covid-19. Other resources to fight the pandemic, such as ventilators and intensive care unit beds are also scarce.

This has detrimental effects on the future of the country, and even more so on the long-term health of millions of children and pregnant or breastfeeding women that often require treatment for severe malnutrition. According to UNICEF, around 9 million children have limited or no access to water, which restraints their hygiene, putting them at risk of infection.

Yemeni women are the most disproportionately affected demographic from the fluctuating state of food security and malnutrition, for various reasons. First, even when families get hold of food, women are the last to eat, giving priority to children and/or other family members, thus, they end up eating the least. Second, in some cases, young girls (from eight years old) are married off in an attempt to reduce the family’s expenses, particularly food.

Third, being in charge of the household, Yemeni women might use the money for their own meal to other household needs. Fourth, women’s access to hospitals and/or other medical services is increasingly restricted, having profound implications on their health and the protection of their families and communities at large.

Finally, the lockdown measures exposed women to the risk of gender-based violence. Indeed, a substantial number of Yemeni women have experienced incidents of violence perpetuated by a male counterpart throughout the course of the lockdown.