Food & Hunger

  • In a world full of food one in eight people goes to bed hungry every night. Small farms around the world put food on the plates of one in three people on this planet. Yet extreme weather and unpredictable seasons are affecting what farmers can grow. Food prices are going up. Food quality is going down. Nearly a billion of the world’s poorest people are finding it even harder to feed their families. We demand a fairer and sustainable global food system so everyone has enough to eat. That means investing in small-scale food producers, helping farmers adapt to climate change, and securing and protecting their access to land.

Aisha’s story - Sa’adah IDP - Yemen

Aishah with her sisters Wafa* and Zahrah* in their open kitchen with empty dinnerware. They are vulnerable and have no source of income. *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

We had to flee from Malaheedh to Mazraq camp, where we used to be fine with the help of an INGO.

Then we had to flee airstrikes to Hudaydah, but the conditions were unimaginably harsh-we barely could eat.

We had to flee on foot. We left all our assets and carried what we could. We walked distances barefoot under the sun and many times slept under the rain. My brother helped us escape and accompanied us to this place and helped build this small shelter, but he has his own struggles and returned to take care of his family. I carried one blanket and a little bag of clothes.

It has been three years since we were displaced to this camp.

I live with a constant feeling of oppression as I have nothing at all. My children need to eat, clothes to wear and they always get sick. I get them to agencies providing emergency medical care as I’ll never afford long term medical care.

Aishah in her open kitchen with empty dinnerware. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Here I don’t get any help. My children always go when there is news of distributions of food like flour, oil, or beans. Sometimes they come back with something, but many times they return empty-handed. I sometimes go with them despite my illness.

I have three boys and one girl -the oldest is 10 years old. I also have to care for my sister’s now 11-month-old girl. My husband and I got divorced and we lost contact with him. He could’ve been kidnapped or killed.

I’m their breadwinner. With my four kids and my niece, we go out every day collecting plastic bottles and metal cans to sell for recycling, and with the little we earn, we buy food to eat. I always go out with all my kids to earn for food, unless one of them is sick.

All I earn from selling plastic and metal cans goes to whatever food I can afford. I’ve never earned enough to last for the next day. I already struggle to get milk for my infant girl and rarely get to buy diapers. I buy one bottle of milk (300ml) for whole day and night.

On a lucky day, we earn 1700 –2000 YR (almost $3) and I can buy yogurt, a few vegetables and bread. I buy flour when I can and make bread. I use cardboard boxes or newspapers to make my cooking fires -wood or gas are privileges I can never to afford. I make lunch and if there are leftovers, my children have that for dinner, but we’re used to sleeping with empty stomachs.

Daily meals: if enough is earned

Breakfast: Yogurt

Lunch: A few vegetables –if I earn more than 2000YR, I buy half a chicken I‘m usually able to once a week. When we haven’t earned anything, I ask people for bread and that’s all we have to eat.

Wafa* and Zahrah* eating some charity stale bread. It is the only food available to them (11:00 PM / they have not eaten any breakfast). *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Our most common meal is bread with yogurt.

Many times, I have nothing at all to give my children to eat for over a day.

Today for breakfast we had only hard loaves of leftover bread from yesterday. Yesterday we had nothing at all, until some people passed by giving away bread. They were saviours.

Most of the time, our daily meal could be one yogurt only, or few potatoes or bread when there is some. Other times it’s nothing at all.

“Most of the times, when we have little to nothing to eat, I struggle to get my children to sleep at night. They ask for food and I try to distract them, telling them stories and speaking to them until they’re asleep, then I look at them and pray for a better life until I get stolen by sleep.”

I have experienced harsh situations where my children ask me for more food, and I have nothing to give them. They ask me why we cannot eat chicken, meat, etc... It burns my heart, but I try to stay strong, I’ve great deal of patience and faith in Almighty God. It was painful in the beginning as I attempted to teach my children to be patient, and then they got used to it. For years now, a day goes without breakfast, another without lunch or dinner. When I earn little extra, I rush to get them the little I can afford of what they desire to eat.

My hope is that my kids get to eat what they want. I wonder if they’ll ever get to eat meat or fish? I don’t recall the last time we had a decent meal. I just hope they get to live happily and get what they want.

I hope this war ends and that I get a sewing machine and fabric to be able to produce something and have a decent sustainable income that saves me and my children from the struggle and suffering. I hope INGOs help us with cash to buy food or provide us emergency food assistance. We need programmes that builds our resilience and restores livelihoods.

The women on the front lines of the Hunger Virus

Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam

9 July 2021

Today, Oxfam published a new report warning that as many as 11 people are likely dying of hunger and malnutrition every minute, outpacing the current global death rate of Covid-19 of approximately seven people per minute.

The report, entitled The Hunger Virus Multiplies, reveals that conflict remains the main cause of hunger since the pandemic, pushing over half a million people into famine-like conditions and marking a six-fold increase since last year.

Conflict combined with the climate crisis and the Covid-related economic crisis has led to 155 million people living in crisis levels of food insecurity or worse. This is 20 million more than last year.

On top of that, mass unemployment and disrupted food production have led to a 40 percent jump in global food prices - the highest increase in more than 10 years.

Today, we also meet some of the women worst affected by this worsening Hunger Virus.

Photo: Mahamat Ibrahim Saleh/Oxfam
Photo: Islam Mardini/ Oxfam
Photo: Islam Mardini/Oxfam
Photo: Alokpa Kodjovi/Oxfam
Photo: Alokpa Kodjovi/Oxfam
Photo: Adrienne Surprenant/Oxfam
Photo: Rolando Duarte/Oxfam
Photo: Tagaza Djibo/Oxfam
Photo: Dominic Kango Amos/Oxfam
Photo: Lizwe Chitanganya/Oxfam
Photo: Cissé Amadou/Oxfam
Photo: Serawit Atnafu/Oxfam
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Born in Yemen in 2015, war is all he has ever known

“I don’t want to live in this place, I just want to go home.”

Six-year-old Omar* is tired. He’s tired of the wind, of the rain, of moving from one place to the next.

Born in Yemen in 2015, the year the war started, war is all Omar has ever known. Not long after his arrival, his family were forced flee their home in Nihm District, Sana’a Governorate.

“In 2015, we were living in security and stability in our villages, houses and farms,” says his 45-year-old father Salem*. “We used to grow crops and eat from that. Water supply was always provided by government. We got food from our own farms.

“I also had a monthly salary from the government. I used to work in the security department. Everything was just fine.”

Then the war started and everything changed.

Salem and his son Omar in Alswidan Camp, Marib Governorate. Photo: Kaff Media/Oxfam

The family fled their village, leaving most of their belongings behind. For a while, they lived in caves and drank water from nearby ponds. They moved again – first to Alkhaniq camp, then to Algadaan, where they stayed for six months, until August 2020, before the conflict forced them to flee once more.

It is a difficult and uncertain life for a family already grieving the loss of a loved one. Salem’s third-oldest child, his 15-year-old son, was struck by a car and died in December 2020.  

The family eventually moved to Alswidan camp, four to five days away by foot. “I didn’t have any vehicle to transport my children nor my stuff, so I had to send my children with other passengers separately,” said Salem.

“Our life nowadays in Alswidan camp is difficult because of the harsh climate and storms… When we first arrived here, we faced a strong storm which tore apart our tents and we were told that we will be given new tents.”

The family of seven live in a 12sqm tent. So far, there have been fires in six tents in the camp due to families having to cook inside their shelters. But there are other risks too, Salem explains.

People in the camp are always afraid of military actions that could hit them any time. We all live in anxiety… I live with fear about my family and my family sleep and wake up frightened. All families, not just my family.

Salem says that they have not received any food aid in more than a year. And water is limited. “Water supply is just 500 litres for each family no matter how big or small the family is,” he continues. Some people have animals to raise, I have a few goats which help me in my living.

“They provide us with only 500 litres of water for five or six days. Sometimes water supply is provided for two months and stopped for another month.

“As for the health services, we have a clinic that provides basic medicine only. One day, my youngest boy asked his brother to bring him some water to drink… The older boy gave him too much water until his lungs were filled with it. I took him to the clinics nearby but they couldn’t rescue him. So, I had to take him to a private hospital and I spent 48,000 YR (€160) in three days. I didn’t have that amount of money but his mother did have some jewellery.”

Salem* and Omar's* story

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Salem wants a better future for his children. He wants them to have an education – something that they have missed out on in recent years – and to live in peace.

It’s what Omar dreams of too.

“When I grow up, I want to be a teacher so I can teach other children and go back home," he says. "We go back home and never have to leave it again. I don’t want to live in this place, I just want to go back home.”

*Names changed to protect identities.

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COVID-19 and hunger, a lethal threat facing the people of Yemen this winter

The pandemic has turned some of us into armchair statisticians. Those of us who, every evening, frantically check Twitter or turn on the news to hear the infection rates – and on the bad days, the number of fatalities. We monitor the rise in cases across the world, obsess over spikes and waves, and wish it would all end so life would go back to normal.

But for the people of Yemen, life was far from normal even before COVID-19. For more than five years, the country has been in the grip of war and the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Four out of every five Yemenis need some kind of humanitarian assistance, and almost four million people have been displaced by the fighting and airstrikes. Almost 20 million, or two thirds of the population, have to rely on food aid to survive, while Yemen is also experiencing the largest cholera outbreak on record. Now families in Yemen face another threat – COVID-19.

The damage caused by airstrikes in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a. Photo: Bassam Al-Thulaya/Oxfam

And that’s not all. Widespread destruction of the country’s health services and water infrastructure mean that the people of Yemen are at serious risk if they contract the virus. Yet the United Nations’ response plan to get clean water, food and medical care to the most vulnerable is only 44 percent funded this year.

It is a tragedy of epic proportions, made worse by the fact that other members of the G20 have exported more than US$17billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia since it became involved in the conflict in Yemen in 2015. Those same members have only given a third of that amount in aid to people caught up in the crisis.

“Having suffered years of death, displacement and disease, the people of Yemen need these powerful members of the international community to bring all parties to the conflict together to agree to an immediate countrywide ceasefire and return to negotiations committed to achieving a lasting peace. “Making billions from arms exports which fuel the conflict while providing a small fraction of that in aid to Yemen is both immoral and incoherent. The world’s wealthiest nations cannot continue to put profits above the Yemeni people.”

- Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director

Ibtisam and two of her children in their damaged home. Photo: Radhyah Mohammed/Oxfam

Among those affected by the war is Ibtisam Sageer Al Razehi, a 35-year-old former teacher and mother of three. She lives with her young children in the remains of the family house in Sa’ada city which was damaged by missiles and artillery fire. Her husband was killed by an airstrike in 2015.

“I lost my husband, my children lost their father, we lost the breadwinner and because of war I also lost my salary as our last hope for living,

“Humanitarian aid has decreased a lot; now we receive food every two months instead of every month. I appeal to the world to have mercy on the children of Yemen and stop this war. We are very tired of living in war for years, we lost everything beautiful in our lives, even the simple hope of peace.’’

- Ibtisam

The people of Yemen have already suffered so much. Without your help, many of them risk starving this winter or, weakened by hunger, could succumb to COVID-19.

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