New famine fears loom in Yemen

Wed Oct 5, 2016 8:03am EDT
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By Jonathan Saul, Noah Browning and Mohammed Ghobari

LONDON/DUBAI (Reuters) - Intensive care wards in Yemen's hospitals are filled with emaciated children hooked up to monitors and drips - victims of food shortages that could get even worse due to a reorganization of the central bank that is worrying importers.

With food ships finding it hard to get into Yemen's ports due to a virtual blockade by the Saudi-led coalition that has backed the government during an 18-month civil war, over half the country's 28 million people already do not have enough to eat, according to the United Nations.

Yemen's exiled president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, last month ordered the central bank's headquarters to be moved from the capital Sanaa, controlled by Houthi rebels in the north, to the southern port of Aden, which is held by the government. He also appointed a new governor, a member of his government who has said the bank has no money.

Trade sources involved in importing food to the Arab peninsula's poorest country say this decision will leave them financially exposed and make it harder to bring in supplies.

Diplomats and aid officials believe the crisis surrounding the central bank could adversely affect ordinary Yemenis.

"The politicization of the central bank and attempts by the parties in the conflict to use it as a tool to hurt one another ... threaten to push the poorest over the edge," said Richard Stanforth, humanitarian policy adviser with Oxfam.

"Everything is stacked against the people on the brink of starvation in Yemen."

The effects of food shortages can already be seen. At the children's emergency unit at the Thawra hospital in the port of Hodaida, tiny patients with skin sagging over their bones writhe in beds. Hallways and waiting rooms are crowded with parents seeking help for their hungry and dying children.   Continued...

A malnourished boy lies on a bed outside his family's hut in al-Tuhaita district of the Red Sea province of Hodaida, Yemen September 26, 2016. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad