Last updated: 25 September, 2012

Humanitarian crisis looming in Yemen

Yemen is on the verge of a major humanitarian crisis, the UN’s World Food Programme warned Tuesday, calling for more funds to help the country where nearly half the population is going hungry.

“Yemen is sliding ever further into a humanitarian crisis,” WFP spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva, adding that “more than 10 million people, or about half the population, is hungry and needs food”.

The country, one of the poorest on the planet, now also has the highest level in the world of malnutrition among children, with two million stunted and one million acutely malnourished, Byrs said.

The WFP has scaled up its food assistance programmes in Yemen, and aims now to help a total of 5.5 million people by the end of the year, she said, compared with 3.4 million people at the end of July.

The aid increase meant the WFP was in desperate need of funds, Byrs said, adding that $223 million is needed to fund its programmes in Yemen through the end of the year, and it is still lacking $69 million, or 31 percent.

The shortfall meant among other things that a programme aimed at helping girls remain in school by providing them with take-home food rations for their families had been slashed.

Instead of helping 111,000 school girls, and thus reaching 777,000 people, the programme could now only reach just 53,000 school girls, or a total of 371,000 people, Byrs said.

Yemen is undergoing a difficult political transition after a year-long uprising unseated veteran leader Ali Abdullah Saleh in February and left the economy of the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country in shambles.

Earlier this month, global donors made aid pledges worth $6.4 billion to Yemen, amounting to only half of what Sanaa says it needs to revive its economy and rebuild infrastructure badly damaged during the 2011 uprising.