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Yemen: UN extremely concerned about food situation

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Sue Tapply
WVoN co-editor

The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, who recently returned from a four-day mission to Yemen, is extremely concerned that millions of people there are facing a severe and worsening humanitarian crisis.

This crisis, she pointed out, is not only touching people who are directly affected by conflict or displacement.

What we are seeing now, she said, is chronic deprivation made worse by the breakdown of essential social services as a result of the political turmoil and violence.

At a UN briefing on December 2, she pointed out that the rates of malnutrition in young children in Yemen are comparable to those in Somalia and a third of the population did not know where their next meal was coming from.

Tens of thousands of people have been displaced by the fighting in Abyan Governorate in southern Yemen in recent months, she continued.

Most are living with host families or in school buildings in Aden and neighbouring governorates, and, as the fighting in Abyan is continuing, it is unlikely that they will be able to go home in the near future.

In northern Yemen, around 300,000 people remain displaced by the conflict in Sa’ada, she said, and many are unable to return to their homes because of insecurity, fears of retaliation, and loss of livelihoods and assets.

In an attempt to help alleviate the situaiton, she said,  in 2012, the United Nations and its partners will expand humanitarian programmes and aim to reach as many as possible of the 3.8 million people across Yemen needing life-saving aid.

This figure includes the internally displaced people, refugees, as well as the host communities, she said.

Humanitarian actors are requesting total funding of US$452 million for 2012, a 35 per cent increase as compared to 2011.

This funding will cover food and nutrition, water, sanitation and health and make sure the most vulnerable people – in the most vulnerable communities – get the help they need.

Even though the transition agreement has been signed, and there is a sense of hope for the future, she continued, conflict is likely to continue, with devastating effects on civilians.

The Yemeni government and other authorities, she said, must understand and respond to the urgency of the situation, including reversal of the breakdown in basic public services that accompanied the political turmoil to date, and ensure that a comprehensive response addresses the underlying problems and the needs of the people.

And she called on the Yemeni authorities and others involved in the conflict to respect their international obligations.

They must, she stressed, protect civilians and civilian infrastructures and ensure humanitarian access to basic services.

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