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Ukraine-Russia war: UN warns of 'hell on earth' as Yemen crisis worsened by invasion

UN World Food Programme once again warns of impact of funding gaps, with fuel and food prices set to increase because of Ukraine invasion
A Yemeni girl in a displaced persons camp in Razih district in Saada province, Yemen, on 4 February 2020 (Reuters)

The Russian invasion of Ukraine will likely increase fuel and food prices in war-torn Yemen, which would push the country into a "catastrophe" as humanitarian funding dries up, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday. 

"We have no choice but to take food from the hungry to feed the starving and, unless we receive immediate funding, in a few weeks we risk not even being able to feed starving," WFP executive director David Beasley said in the statement.

"This will be hell on earth," Beasley said, of the situation facing Yemen.  

The announcement came as Russia launched a full-scale attack on Ukraine, sending oil prices past $100 per barrel. European wheat prices also hit a record high, with lower supplies expected as Ukraine and Russia are two of the world's biggest producers. 

Over the past year, food prices have more than doubled across Yemen, putting over half of the population in need of food assistance, according the WFP. 

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"The escalation of conflict in Ukraine is likely to further increase fuel and food prices and especially grains in the import-dependent country.

"Higher food prices will push more people into the vicious circle of hunger and dependence on humanitarian assistance," the UN programme said.

At the start of 2021, the WFP was forced to halve food rations for eight million people in Yemen due to a drop in funding.

Yemen has been pushed the brink of famine as a result of the seven-year-long war between the Saudi and United Arab Emirates-backed government and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

The WFP has repeatedly warned that funds were falling, despite Yemen going through the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

Top donors to the WFP's Yemen aid programme include the United States, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Germany, the European Union, Sweden, Canada and Switzerland. 

Last year, the UN body appealed for $3.85bn to pay for urgently needed aid. However, only $1.7bn was granted. 

Earlier this month, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned that Yemen faced a "death sentence" if these humanitarian funding gaps were not filled. 

"We have never before contemplated giving millions of hungry people no food at all," Griffiths told a UN Security Council meeting.

During the conflict in Yemen, hundreds of thousands of people have died - both directly and indirectly - while millions have been displaced. 

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