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Conflict, economy, and typical lean season expected to drive deteriorating food security in many areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Yemen
  • October 2020 - May 2021
Conflict, economy, and typical lean season expected to drive deteriorating food security in many areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In Yemen, conflict continues to drive poor macroeconomic conditions and disrupt livelihoods, reducing access to food and income. Though the recent harvest in some areas is expected to have improved food access for many households, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes remain widespread. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely to re-emerge in some areas in the February to May 2021 period as the lean season progresses. Overall, an estimated 17 to 19 million people are expected to be in need of humanitarian food assistance throughout the projection period. While not the most likely scenario, Famine (IPC Phase 5) would be possible in the event that food imports are significantly disrupted for a prolonged period of time.

    • As of September 2020, the Yemeni Rial continued to depreciate in southern areas, contributing to further increases in already above-average prices of food and non-food commodities. The Rial depreciated by 4-5 percent in southern areas from August to September, reaching 793 YER/USD according to data from FAO. According to data from UNVIM, food imports through the Red Sea Ports of Al Hudaydah and Salif have maintained relatively higher levels in recent months, with the July to September 2020 average 65 percent higher than the average from the preceding months from January to June 2020. Despite this, concern is mounting over the possible suspension of Yemen’s import financing mechanism.

    • Fuel shortages ongoing since June continue to impact Yemen, particularly in the north. From June to September 2020, average monthly fuel import levels were 60,000 MT, only one-third of the January-May 2020 average. Prices of diesel and petrol remain 13 and 14 percent higher, respectively than prices six months ago. This is impacting typical livelihood activities including in agriculture and transportation and is putting further upward pressure on food prices given the importance of fuel for agricultural production, food processing, and transport.


    Current Situation

    Yemen continues to face the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with high levels of acute food insecurity driven by conflict, poor economic conditions, and reduced agricultural production. Over 17 million people are currently in need of humanitarian assistance to prevent food consumption gaps and protect livelihoods.

    According to data from ACLED, high levels of conflict continue in Yemen, with a slight uptick in both armed clashes and airstrikes recorded at the national level in September 2020 (Figure 1). According to data from Intelyse, active conflict continues to disproportionately impact Al Jawf, Ma’rib, Al Bayda, Aden,  southern areas of Al Hudaydah, and parts of Ta’izz, Al Dali’, Abyan, and Hajjah (Figure 2). Conflict between the Southern Transitional Council (STC) and Hadi-backed forces has continued in the south.

    Widespread and persistent conflict across Yemen continues to disrupt typical livelihood activities and drive large-scale displacement. As of October 31, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded a total of 158,256 people (26,376 households) displaced in 2020 across the 13 of 24 governorates monitored. Given limited coverage, this is an underestimate of the total number displaced in Yemen. Of the monitored governorates, Ma’rib remains the governorate hosting the highest number of people who have been newly displaced in 2020 (12,064 households), largely driven by conflict in Ma’rib and Al Jawf.

    Yemen’s economy continues to be impacted by severe foreign currency shortages. In this context, the exchange rate has been depreciating—driven by the exchange rate in southern areas—since November/December 2019. According to FAO, the exchange rate in southern areas depreciated approximately 5 percent from August to September 2020, reaching 793 YER/USD. In northern areas, the exchange rate remained fairly stable on average. Deteriorating macroeconomic conditions continue to drive increasing food prices and reduced access to income for millions.

    As of October 24, a total of 2,064 cases of COVID-19 were reported in Yemen according to OCHA, with only 30 new cases reported in the preceding month. Most cases have been reported in the southern governorates of Hadhramaut (959 cases), Ta’izz (303 cases), and Aden (286 cases). In northern areas, information about COVID-19 continues to be restricted. Overall, capacity for testing and treatment remains limited, with the number of cases likely to be a significant underestimate. Evidence of this is provided by the case fatality ratio of 29 percent, which is the highest in the world. A high case fatality ratio often indicates that only the most severe cases of a disease are being tested.

    Fuel shortages ongoing since June 2020 in northern areas of Yemen continue to impact typical livelihood activities—including in the agriculture, fishing, transportation, processing, and manufacturing sectors—and are putting further upward pressure on food prices given the importance of fuel for food processing and transport. In September 2020, fuel imports through the Red Sea ports of Al Hudaydah and Salif totaled just 20,000 tons according to data from UNVIM. This brings the June to September 2020 average (during the period of shortages) to 60,000 MT per month, which is only one-third of the January to May 2020 monthly average (prior to the period of shortages). According to news reports, a fuel tanker unloaded in Al Hudaydah on October 23. However, this is expected to provide only temporary relief amidst the ongoing blockade. At the national level, the average prices of diesel and petrol declined slightly—by 3 and 4 percent, respectively—between August and September according to FAO, though prices remained 13 and 14 percent higher, respectively than prices six months ago. Shortages also continued to impact Aden and Al Bayda throughout the month of October, due to a blockade of oil ports in Aden by military protestors demanding salary payments. In Aden, the average prices of diesel and petrol increased by six and 3 percent between August and September.

    According to data from UNVIM, food imports through the Red Sea Ports of Al Hudaydah and Salif have maintained relatively higher levels in recent months, with the July to September 2020 average 65 percent higher than the average from the preceding months from January to June 2020. Average monthly wheat and wheat flour imports through Yemen’s main sea and land ports now stand at 269,000 per month between January and September 2020 according to FAO, which is similar to the FAO’s estimated monthly import requirement for Yemen of approximately 267,000 per month. Despite this, concern is mounting over the possible suspension of Yemen’s import financing mechanism that provides letters of credit to food importers, allowing them to access foreign currency at preferred exchange rates. The Sana’a Center reported in October that foreign currency exchange holdings from the Saudi deposit were less than $200 million—an amount insufficient to cover one month of imports. The Sana’a Center also reported that, given this, there is a possibility that the CBY in Aden will suspend the letters of credit import financing mechanism in the coming few months, though this is not the expectation in FEWS NET’s most likely scenario (see assumptions below). According to the World Bank’s Monthly Economic Update for October, there is growing evidence that the government deficit has been financed by the CBY overdraft facility.

    Currently, harvesting activities are ongoing in many areas of Yemen. Overall, FAO projects that cereal production in 2020 will total 365,000 tons, including 160,000 tons of sorghum, 130,000 tons of wheat, 40,000 tons of millet, and 35,000 tons of other cereals. Total cereal production in 2020 is expected to be 5 percent below 2019 production levels and 25 percent below the five-year average. Compared to pre-conflict levels, this figure is even lower. In addition to the impacts of conflict, crops have been damaged this year by some localized flooding and desert locusts. FAO estimates that Yemen’s total domestic cereal production contributes less than 20 percent of all utilization needs, while domestic production of wheat—Yemen’s key staple—contributes 5-10 percent. As a result, Yemen is highly dependent on imports to meet its cereal needs, though local agricultural production of cereals and other food crops is expected to provide many poor households with limited food stocks and some income from crop sales in the post-harvest period. In addition, local agricultural production of food and cash crops provides many poor households with income-earning opportunities as laborers for better-off households.

    According to FAO data, the prices of most staple food commodities (and, consequently, the cost of the minimum food basket) have been generally increasing at the national level, with the cost of staple wheat flour 4 percent higher in September 2020 compared to three months ago, 13 percent higher compared to 6 months ago, and 26 percent higher compared to the same time last year. Though prices of most staple food remained stable or increased only slightly at the national level between August and September 2020, this masks considerable variability at the governorate level. Between August and September, the price of staple wheat flour increased by 6-10 percent in Ma’rib, Sana’a City, Shabwah, Al Mahrah, Al Bayda, Amran, and Hadhramaut Coast. Meanwhile, according to FAO, wages for casual labor remained stable (increased by 2 percent) at the national level between August and September, while wages for agricultural labor increased by 4 percent. However, substantial differences again exist at the governorate level. Considering both food prices and wages, terms of trade (an indicator of purchasing power defined by the ratio of wheat flour prices to labor wages) for casual laborers declined by 4-7 percent from August to September in Al Hudaydah, Sana’a City, Lahij, and Hadhramaut Coast. Meanwhile, terms-of-trade for agricultural laborers declined by 4-7 percent in Al Hudaydah, Al Bayda, Sana’a City, and Shabwah.

    Access to income remains constrained due to the long-term impacts of the conflict on Yemen’s economy, persistent government revenue shortages, and reduced remittances from Saudi Arabia due to impacts of reduced global oil prices and COVID-19 on the Saudi economy. Within Yemen, COVID-19 has been an additional shock on economic activity and income-earning in urban areas in recent months, though recovery is expected to have occurred since restrictions were eased. Due to government revenue shortages, payments of salaries for civil servants continue to be impacted by delays or non-payment. However, according to the World Bank’s Monthly Economic Update for October 2020 update, authorities in northern areas have disbursed half-month salaries to public sector workers under its controlled areas every other month in 2020, partially alleviating concerns about the southern government ceasing payment of salaries to northern areas at the end of 2019. Meanwhile, due to impacts of the global oil market and COVID-19 on Saudi Arabia’s economy, income from international remittances is also expected to remain below average, though levels are expected to have recovered somewhat in recent months. According to the Cash Consortium of Yemen’s September 2020 Remittances Tracker, trends in changes in formal international inflows have been mixed in the past two weeks, with 11 of 29 interviewed exchange offices reporting increased levels, 5 reporting decreased levels, and 13 reporting no change. Out of the 29 interviewed, 19 indicated that formal remittance levels had not returned to pre-COVID-19 levels, while 10 indicated that they had. Meanwhile, given diverging exchange rates between northern and southern areas and high fees for money transfers from southern to northern areas, remittance transfers within Yemen are also likely to be below average. More recently, the Central Bank of Yemen closed all money transfer markets at the end of September according to the Cash Consortium of Yemen, with the aim of implementing a single transfer market in early October to help prevent further depreciation of the currency. Meanwhile, according to UNICEF, the last social welfare fund payment occurred in late June/July 2020.

    In September 2020, WFP targeted 8.2 million beneficiaries with humanitarian food assistance. Of these, approximately 5.9 million people were targeted with in-kind food, 1.6 million were targeted with commodity vouchers, and 670,000 were targeted with cash transfers. Since April 2020, beneficiaries in northern Houthi-controlled areas have been reached with an estimated 80 percent ration every other month instead of monthly. Fuel shortages in northern areas are resulting in some disruptions to assistance distributions at the district level, though no major disruptions to distribution activities have been reported. WFP also provided cash transfers to over 85,000 beneficiaries in September as part of food-for-assets (FFA) projects.

    The WFP collects monthly data on food security indicators in Yemen via its mVAM mobile phone survey. While important for monitoring, it is important to note that these surveys are not representative at the governorate or national level. Furthermore, only those who own cell phones are sampled, which is likely to be a source of response bias. Generally, those with cell phones may be expected to be better off than those without, but variable geographical coverage across each governorate prevents the ability to infer the likely direction of bias at the governorate or national level. As a result, broad trends over time are more reliable than the absolute values of the indicators themselves. In September 2020, the proportion of households reporting “poor” food consumption as measured by the Food Consumption Score (FCS) — a composite measure of both quantity and quality of food consumed in the past seven days — increased by 2 percentage points at the national level relative to August. Despite some month-to-month volatility, the percentage reporting “poor” FCS has been generally increasing since February 2020. The use of food consumption-based coping strategies as measured by the reduced coping strategies index (rCSI) was stable between August and September at the national level. Indicators were worse among internally displaced persons (IDPs), particularly in Lahij, Sana’a, and Al Jawf.

    No recent nutrition SMART surveys have been conducted. Though nutrition screening and admissions data is confounded by a variety of factors—including changes in the number, capacity, and location of treatment sites, changes in reporting rates among existing sites, and changes in the number of people seeking treatment—trends can still be useful to monitor. It should be noted that, according to the Nutrition Cluster, admissions trends are currently difficult to interpret due to low reporting rates from partners in the second half of 2020, and significant month-to-month volatility exists in these figures even when reporting rates are relatively high. The Nutrition Cluster also reported that attendance was still reduced in September due primarily to COVID-19, but that attendance was only around 10 percent reduced as of August.

    From June to September 2020, admissions for Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM) among children under five increased by 22 percent according to the Nutrition Cluster’s November analysis. However, this increasing trend is similar to the trend recorded last year, and absolute levels of MAM admissions in 2020 are also similar to levels recorded last year. However, after crude adjustment for reporting rate, levels of MAM admissions are slightly higher in August and September 2020 relative to 2019, though adjusted levels around June were similar. While reporting rates regarding admissions for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) remain very low (introducing greater potential for bias given that reporting areas are likely, not representative of all areas), crude adjustment for reporting rate shows an increasing trend in SAM admissions with and without complications, following the trend observed last year. After crude adjustment, admissions of SAM without complications are slightly lower than levels recorded last year, while admissions of SAM with complications are similar. Meanwhile, according to WHO nutrition surveillance in August, MAM prevalence (measured by MUAC due to COVID-19 prevention protocols) among children screened at non-representative sentinel sites across 107 priority districts increased from 18 percent in April and May 2020 to around 22 percent from June to August. Meanwhile, SAM prevalence among those screened increased from 5 percent throughout the first half of 2020 to around 8 percent from June to August. While increasing MAM admissions as well as increasing MAM and SAM prevalence among those screened at sentinel sites could be an indication of a worsening nutrition situation, trends are not deviating substantially from those recorded last year, based on limited available evidence. Further monitoring through the end of 2020 will be important to understand if rates continue to increase (which would be of concern) or begin to decrease again as per what has been observed in the past.

    Currently, the recent and ongoing harvests in some regions are expected to be providing some limited seasonal support as households access small amounts of food from own-production and income from agricultural labor opportunities. In many areas, households are also accessing some seasonal food and income from livestock products and livestock sales. Poor households across the country are also expected to be accessing some income from casual labor opportunities, petty trade, remittances, and humanitarian cash transfers. However, access to income is expected to be below average overall due to below-average remittances, ongoing fuel shortages, increased competition for available income-earning opportunities, and the absence of any social welfare fund payment since July 2020. Given rising food prices, food access is expected to be increasingly constrained for many poor market-dependent households. In northern areas, the ongoing cuts to humanitarian assistance are expected to be further reducing access to food. In this environment, the absence of school feeding programs since the middle of the year are likely further stretching households’ resources. Available information suggests that the majority of Yemenis face at least moderate food consumption gaps or are engaging in negative livelihoods-based coping strategies such as selling productive assets in order to meet their food needs. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes persist even in the presence of ongoing humanitarian food assistance, with an increasing number of worst-affected households expected to be facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or Catastrophe (IPC Phase 5) outcomes following cuts to humanitarian assistance in northern areas and in areas where food prices are rising quickly and households have exhausted available coping strategies. Additionally, key informants report that some better-off households are likely exhausting strategies such as selling assets, spending savings, and purchasing food on credit. In Aden, recent information from key informants suggest that some poor households are still relying on these strategies, with Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes likely at the area level. Overall, FEWS NET estimates that 17-19 million people need emergency food assistance, with poor households and IDPs likely worst affected.


    The most likely scenario for the October 2020 to May 2021 period is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Conflict is anticipated to continue at current high levels in western areas of Yemen. Access constraints are expected to persist in conflict-affected areas, and delays at security checkpoints between northern and southern areas are expected to continue. In the south, progress toward implementation of the Riyadh agreement is expected to remain slow, given historical patterns.
    • Given current trends, the total number of COVID-19 cases is expected to continue to increase throughout the projection period. Currently enacted COVID-19 control measures—including increased screening and quarantine measures at ports and restrictions at land borders—are expected to remain in place. Restrictions on businesses and public gatherings are likely to remain lifted throughout most of the projection period.
    • Given current patterns of people returning to work as well as expectations for recovering global oil prices through at least May 2021, some gradual economic recovery is expected in Saudi Arabia throughout the projection period. As a result, levels of remittances to Yemen are expected to gradually recover throughout the projection period, though will likely remain below average given the prolonged global economic impacts of COVID-19. However, this depends on the absence of a second wave of infection and renewed lockdown measures in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, remittances and money transfers within Yemen—and particularly transfers from southern to northern areas—are expected to remain reduced throughout the scenario period due to disparate monetary policies and exchange rates between northern and southern areas which are resulting in higher fees for transfers.
    • Given recent trends according to data from the US Energy Information Administration, oil production and export levels in 2020 are likely to be below average and only slightly higher than 2019 levels. Given past production trends despite ambitious targets, oil production and export levels through May 2021 are most likely to be similar to levels in 2020. Given expectations for recovering global oil prices, foreign exchange earnings from oil exports through at least May 2021 are expected to recover to levels close to those in early 2020, though will remain below average.
    • Given expectations for reduced revenue from oil exports, reduced remittances, and reduced humanitarian aid inflows, severe foreign currency shortages are expected to persist throughout the scenario period. Informal markets will continue to play a key role in regulating access to foreign currency. No large deposit of foreign currency (similar to the 2 billion USD deposit made by Saudi Arabia in early 2018) is expected in the scenario period.
    • Due to the impacts of protracted conflict and severe foreign currency shortages, macroeconomic conditions are likely to continue deteriorating through at least May 2021. In southern areas, the average value of the YER is expected to depreciate throughout the projection period, reaching levels between 950 – 1050 YER/USD in the February to May 2021 period. In northern areas, the average value of the YER is expected to depreciate at a slower rate throughout the projection period, reaching levels between 650 – 700 YER/USD in the February to May 2021 period. The gap between exchange rates in the north and south is expected to continue widening throughout the projection period. This will likely lead to increased use of hard currency like the Saudi Riyal as the value of the YER is further eroded. Projections assume that a weaker US dollar and ongoing interventions by both CBY-Aden and CBY-Sana’a will limit the extent of currency depreciation to some extent.
    • Due to persistent government revenue and currency shortages, income from civil servant salaries will likely remain below average throughout the projection period. Payment will likely continue to be erratic or absent in many areas.
    • Income from non-agricultural labor opportunities is expected to remain below average due to eroded purchasing power among those who hire labor.
    • Food imports are expected to continue, though at lower levels than what has been observed thus far in 2020, with month to month volatility likely. This is based on the expectation that traders will face increasing difficulties accessing sufficient foreign currency due to continued currency depreciation, below-average levels of remittances, and lack of government revenue. However, suspension of the import financing mechanism and/or a sharp and sustained decline in levels of food imports to levels significantly lower than those observed in the first half of 2020 is not expected in the projection period, due to the likelihood that authorities will continue to obtain some revenue, which will be used to prioritize the national food supply. However, there remains uncertainty around available revenue and this, coupled with the expectation of no external budget support, signals that there remains a risk for sharper declines than currently anticipated (see “Events that Might Change the Outlook” table below).
    • Fuel imports through the Red Sea Ports are expected to continue at recently reduced levels in the near term (one to three months), given recent trends and no indication that the parties are closer to an agreement. As a result, fuel shortages and high fuel prices are likely to continue in northern Houthi-controlled areas in the near term, though with occasional temporary increases in availability likely when a fuel shipment is received. Fuel imports through the port of Aden are also expected to continue to be blocked in the near term given limited government revenue and the consequent inability of the government to respond to protesters’ demands. In the medium term, it is expected that mounting pressure to permit fuel imports to resume will result in the alleviation of shortages.
    • Informal trade of food and livestock across land borders is expected to continue at reduced levels relative to the pre-conflict period.
    • Food prices are expected to continue increasing throughout the scenario period (Figure 3), attributed mostly to continued currency depreciation. During this time, additional upward pressure on prices is expected due to high fuel prices in times of shortage, gradual and continued reduction of in-country food supply due to lower import levels, and progression of the agricultural lean season.  The IMF projects that average annual inflation will be higher in 2021 (31 percent) than in 2020 (26 percent).
    • Livestock body conditions are expected to remain average throughout the scenario period. Milk production is expected to be above-average due to increased fodder production.
    • Harvesting of vegetables, fruits, grains, and cash crops (qat, coffee) is expected in some livelihood zones during the scenario period. Favorable precipitation throughout 2020 is expected to have supported crop production, with production levels expected to be similar to or better than last year. However, overall production levels of food crops are expected to remain below average due to the long-term impacts of conflict on the agricultural sector. According to information on current locust presence from FAO, locust presence is expected to continue to reduce throughout the scenario period.
    • Income from agricultural labor opportunities will likely remain below average throughout the projection period due to reduced purchasing power among those who hire labor and increased reliance on labor from family members. However, demand for agricultural labor will increase seasonally due to the peak labor demand period in many areas from October 2020 to January 2021. Income from civil salary payments are expected to remain below-average, particularly in southern areas due to constrained government revenue. Based on historical patterns, social welfare fund payments are expected around November 2020 and March 2020, though uncertainty around timing exists.
    • Fishing along the Red Sea coast and the Gulf of Aden coast will likely remain below pre-conflict levels due to the impacts of protracted conflict including significantly above-average fuel prices, reduced capacity to purchase fishing assets, and limited access to fishing grounds.
    • Cumulative rainfall during the beginning of the 2021 rainy season from March-May 2021 is expected to be below average due to the presence of La Niña conditions through early 2021. A typical risk of flooding related to extreme precipitation events exists during this time. Risk of water- and vector-borne diseases such as cholera, malaria, and dengue, are also expected to be elevated during this time.
    • Throughout the scenario period, beneficiaries reached by WFP with humanitarian food assistance in northern Houthi-controlled areas are expected to continue to receive distributions of assistance only every other month. Beneficiaries in other areas are expected to continue receiving distributions monthly. Some delays in deliveries are expected as humanitarian partners will continue to face restrictions on movement as well as fuel shortages. Access to humanitarian assistance is expected to be temporarily constrained at times and in areas where conflict or flooding (during the rainy season in March-May 2021) impacts travel routes.
    • Schools are expected to reopen in October and remain open through the end of the school year in June. WFP is expected to assist some 740,000 students across the country.
    • Nutrition support programs including for treatment of moderate acute malnutrition (MAM) and severe acute malnutrition (SAM) are expected to continue operating at current capacity.
    • Due to the current funding environment, partial closure of some humanitarian programs and services is expected. Given previous warnings by humanitarian actors, programs and activities most likely to be impacted include emergency distribution of shelter kits, basic household items, cash for rent, food and medicine, basic healthcare and livelihood support for refugees, and legal assistance and psychosocial support for IDPs.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Throughout the projection period, ongoing conflict and worsening macroeconomic conditions are expected to continue disrupting livelihoods and constraining access to food and income. Overall, access to income is expected to remain close to current below-average levels throughout much of the scenario period. Households dependent on remittances are expected to experience some increased income from that source, and access to income from agricultural labor opportunities will be at seasonally high levels in some regions. However, households dependent on fuel for their livelihoods and those who receive civil servant salary payments in southern areas are likely to experience reductions in income-earning throughout the scenario period. Meanwhile, it is unlikely that wages will be able to fully keep pace with inflation, with the real value of wages expected to decrease in some areas. Given this and rising food prices, household food access will likely be increasingly constrained for many poor households. While below-average harvests will provide some poor rural households with limited food from own-consumption and income from crop sales, stocks are not expected to last beyond a few months in many cases. In northern Houthi-controlled areas where beneficiaries of humanitarian assistance are expected to continue receiving reduced levels of assistance, access to food is expected to be most severely constrained.

    In some areas that have recently or currently harvested, sources of food from own crops and livestock will likely be exhausted and seasonally unavailable during the early months of 2021. Poor households will be fully dependent on markets for their food and will be relying on increasingly constrained resources due to limited expandability of income-earning and coping. Most areas of western Yemen are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) throughout the projection period. However, given available data and information suggesting that relatively higher proportions of the population may already be facing worse outcomes alongside expectations for seasonal deterioration during local lean seasons, area-level Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected to emerge in Amran and Hajjah around April 2020. An increase in the scale and severity of acute food insecurity is expected in other areas, with additional households likely to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and worst-affected households likely to deteriorate to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) or worse outcomes, particularly in areas where assistance has been cut. In Aden, deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected as an increasing number of poor households exhaust their savings, assets, and ability to purchase food on credit During this time, IDP populations and poor households remaining in conflict zones will likely continue to face the most severe food security outcomes. Approximately 17–19 million people are expected to need humanitarian assistance to prevent consumption gaps and protect livelihoods.

    In a worst-case scenario, significant declines in commercial imports or conflict that cuts off food supply for a prolonged period of time would likely lead to food security outcomes in line with Famine (IPC Phase 5). Given that this significant and prolonged disruption is not expected during the projection period, Famine (IPC Phase 5) is not the most likely scenario. However, even in the absence of a sudden shock, the food security situation in Yemen is progressively deteriorating, raising the risk that Famine (IPC Phase 5) could occur should there be a more significant and prolonged disruption to imports.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario:

    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes


    Major parties to conflict achieve a lasting ceasefire 

    In time, food access for many households would begin to improve as prices of staple food commodities decline, household access to food and income begins to return to normal, and IDPs begin to return to their areas of origin. However, widespread improvement in food security outcomes would not occur before the economy fully stabilizes and major government functions and livelihood activities are able to resume.


    CBY in Aden suspends the letters of credit import financing mechanism

    This would likely result in further depreciation of the currency and higher prices for food, fuel, and medicine. The cost of importing these goods would increase in the near term as traders/importers lose access to a preferential exchange rate, with increased costs transmitted to retail prices. Traders will likely increase use of informal financial networks as an immediate response, which would result in import financing gaps and reduced import levels in the near term if alternate sources of foreign currency are insufficient.

    Overall, this would increase the likelihood of a sudden reduction in food import levels (see below), though uncertainty exists. Even in the absence of this, food availability in the country would be impacted over time, though the timing and magnitude of impacts is uncertain and dependent on other factors including any alternate measures enacted by CBY authorities and humanitarian actors.

    Given limited ability for households to compensate for rising prices through expansion of income-earning, this would further constrain access to food for many poor households. An increase in the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes would be likely, with area-level deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) possible in areas where food availability is significantly reduced for a prolonged period (4-6 months).


    Food import levels fall dramatically

    Food prices would quickly rise and, if prolonged, food availability on local markets would decline. Food security outcomes would worsen with area-level deterioration to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) possible in areas where food availability is significantly reduced for a prolonged period. In a worst-case scenario where food supply is cut off from particular areas for a prolonged period of time, Famine (IPC Phase 5) remains possible.


    Yemen receives another large injection of hard currency

    The exchange rate would be expected to stabilize while the deposit lasts, with food imports likely to return to previously observed levels. While food prices would not be expected to return to previous levels, further price increases would be moderated. As a result, purchasing power would remain reduced for most poor households in areas where price increases have occurred.

    National, but especially northern areas

    Further reductions in assistance benefits or delays in assistance deliveries

    If further reductions in humanitarian assistance benefits or delays in deliveries occur, access to food would be further reduced in affected areas. In northern areas currently receiving assistance distributions every other month, deterioration would be more rapid. In other areas, worst affected households would also be expected to face increasingly constrained food access and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

    Red Sea coastal areas

    Decaying SAFER oil tanker causes a spill

    Although this event is not assessed to be highly likely during the scenario period, the risk of this occurring is increasing over time. Should this occur, destruction of fish and fishing grounds would further damage livelihoods along the Red Sea coast. Households dependent on fishing would be expected to face increasingly constrained food access, with an increasing number expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.


    Figures Title: Yemen seasonal calendar Description: Land preparation is from mid-February to May and mid-June to September. First har

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    This graph shows that, from January 2019 to September 2020, the frequency of airstrikes has decreased somewhat, the frequency

    Figure 2

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET, using data from ACLED

    This map shows that areas worst affected by these conflict incidents are in the west of Yemen, including Al Jawf, Ma’rib, Al

    Figure 3

    Figure 2.

    Source: Intelyse

    This graph shows that prices of diesel and wheat flour in the markets of Aden, Al Hudaydah, Hajjah, Sana'a, and Amran are exp

    Figure 4

    Figure 3.

    Source: FAO and WFP (observed) and FEWS NET (projections)

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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