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In Yemen, people ‘begging for food’ amid bombings and blockades

In a Skype interview, Tariq Riebl, Oxfam’s head of program in Yemen, describes the worsening situation on the ground.

A new Oxfam report says fighting and economic blockades in Yemen are making food prices soar and causing an additional 25,000 people to go hungry each day.

Even before the current conflict between government supporters and Houthi rebels began in March, about 41 percent of Yemen’s 26.7 million population didn’t have enough to eat, according to the U.N. World Food Program.

The fighting has made the situation even worse. Neighboring Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes against the rebels and imposed a naval blockade on Yemeni ports “to protect the legitimate government of Yemen from falling and from facing any dangers from an outside militia,” said Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Adel al-Jubeir.

People now are waiting in long lines at fuel stations, sometimes for days, and swarming delivery trucks for scarce supplies that are priced increasingly higher, said Oxfam’s head of program in Yemen Tariq Riebl in the capital Sana’a.

“The prime coping strategy is to reduce meals to one a day or even less,” he said. “Many of the displaced population are sleeping out in the open by the sides of main highways and begging for food. They don’t even have tents.”

The World Food Program has distributed emergency food rations and fuel to about 1.7 million people since the conflict began, with millions more in need, and groups such as Oxfam are providing as much cash and vouchers as their funding will allow, Riebl said.

But humanitarian assistance is not the solution, he added. “They need to have the commercial sector operating normally again” and a non-military solution to the conflict.

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