Millions of Yemenis Facing Severe Humanitarian Crisis

Human Wrongs Watch

Geneva – Millions of people in Yemen are facing a severe humanitarian crisis, chronic deprivation, malnutrition and violence, the UN reports.

Photo credit: UN

The UN warned on Nov. 29 that the situation is likely to deteriorate over the next year despite the recent accord to restore peace and stability. We are seeing chronic deprivation made worse by continuing violence, with some of the world’s highest malnutrition rates, a breakdown of essential services and a looming health crisis,” Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Catherine Bragg said after a four-day visit.

Tens of Thousands Have Been Displaced

Bragg, who is also Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, undertook the visit to assess the intensifying humanitarian crisis in some parts of the country and to discuss ways of boosting the response to the growing needs with the UN’s partners.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting in Abyan governorate and most have found refuge with host families or are living in schools in Aden and neighbouring governorates.

Bragg said that she impressed on the local authorities the need to find durable solutions for internally displaced persons (IDPs) living in schools and to ensure that humanitarian workers have access to all areas where civilians are being displaced.

She also travelled to northern Yemen, where some 300,000 people remain displaced by the conflict in Sa’ada. There she met families living in Al-Mazrak camp and visited a supplementary feeding centre in the area.

Insecurity, Fears

Many people are unable to return to their homes because of insecurity, fears of retaliation and loss of livelihoods and assets. “Despite the best efforts of aid agencies, I noticed a deterioration of the situation compared to what I saw a year ago,” noted Ms. Bragg.

Her visit comes just days after an agreement was reached paving the way for a credible political transition and providing a detailed roadmap for change through the broad participation of Yemen’s citizens, who have been engaged in pro-democracy protests since earlier this year.

However, despite the signing of the transition agreement, humanitarian needs in Yemen are projected to deteriorate over the next year, according to OCHA.

People Starving

The United Nations Food Programme (WFP) reported on Oct.12 that an increase in food prices, political uncertainty and fuel shortages are severely straining Yemenis’ ability to feed their families.

Rising food prices and political instability have left millions of people in Yemen hungry and vulnerable. Malnutrition is stalking the lives of women and children,” said WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran.

Food prices in Yemen have risen dramatically since the beginning of this year, with the price of bread doubling in the past six months.

A recent WFP assessment revealed that an increasing number of people are unable to meet their basic food needs, placing families – especially children – at risk of malnutrition.

Half of Yemeni Children, Malnourished

Even before the crisis, more than 50 per cent of Yemeni children were chronically malnourished and more than 13 per cent were acutely malnourished.

In a news release, the agency said it would scale up its programmes in the country to feed 3.5 million people affected by the crisis, particularly those who have been displaced in the northern and southern regions of the country.

The challenges to reach and meet the urgent needs of the most vulnerable are huge, especially in the midst of a very volatile security situation,” said Lubna Alaman, WFP’s representative in Yemen.

In addition to feeding internally displaced people, WFP is also assisting refugees from the Horn of Africa, severely food insecure people affected by the high food prices, malnourished children and pregnant women and nursing mothers.”

Yemen has a population of approximately 24 million living on a land area of 555,000 square kilometers. Its territory includes over 200 islands, the largest of which is Socotra, about 415 km to the south of mainland Yemen. Yemen is the only state in the Arabian Peninsula to have a republican form of government.


2011 Human Wrongs Watch

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