Things continue to deteriorate in Yemen as the conflict between Houthi rebels and pro-government forces grinds on. But now there's a new problem in the mix: a possible famine, created by what Ertharin Cousin, the executive director of the UN's World Food Programme, calls a "perfect storm" of "lack of staple food, access to clean water, and a diminished fuel supply." In a press release, WFP estimates there are nearly 13 million of what it calls "food insecure" people in the war-torn country, with almost half in especially dire straits. That includes 1.2 million kids who suffer from "moderate" malnourishment and half a million who are severely affected. "The damage to Yemen's next generation may become irreversible if we don't reach children quickly with the right food at the right time," Cousin says. "We must act now before it is too late."
Cousin saw the crisis firsthand during a recent three-day trip around the country, where she met with displaced families, moms and malnourished kids in hospitals, and people gathered at food-distribution centers. The UN's humanitarian chief also recently returned from Yemen and told the UN Security Council yesterday that "the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible," per the BBC. Semantics means the WFP can't call the situation a full-fledged famine just yet: Per the UN, a food crisis is only considered as such if one-fifth of households have limited ability to deal with "extreme" food shortages; acute malnutrition rates surpass 30%; and the daily death rate is more than two per every 10,000 people. Continued conflict in Yemeni ports has exacerbated the problem, the BBC notes, with a WFP ship hammered by airstrikes Tuesday night in Hodeida. (Per UNICEF, 398 children have been killed in Yemen since March, Al Jazeera reports.)