UN rushes food aid to Yemen following heavy fighting

6 June 2007

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced plans to distribute aid to some 20,000 people displaced by heavy fighting in Yemen.

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced plans to distribute aid to some 20,000 people displaced by heavy fighting in Yemen.

The assistance to be delivered around the governorate of Saada in north-western Yemen is part of the agency’s $443,000, two-month operation for the region.

“Many of the displaced fled their homes with only what they could carry and they are now living with families and friends in remote locations outside Saada. We are anxious to reach all of them with assistance as soon as possible,” said Mohamed El Kouhene, WFP’s Country Director in Yemen.

Fighting has displaced an estimated 20,000 people but the figure could rise once security constraints are lifted and there is total access to the area, WFP said, citing the results of a recent assessment.

Besides this emergency operation, the UN agency has a new five-year country programme for 1 million Yemenis focusing on expanding girls’ access to education and improving the health and nutritional status of malnourished children under five, pregnant and lactating women and tuberculosis and leprosy patients.

In another development, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that Yemen faces its worst outbreak of crop-devouring locusts in nearly 15 years.

In a news release, the agency called for a helicopter survey and control campaign to avoid massive infestations and serious damage to food crops.

“Widespread breeding is in progress within a large and remote area of an estimated 31,000 square kilometres in the interior of Yemen, where locust swarms are likely to form,” said FAO expert Keith Cressman, who has just returned from a weeklong assessment mission to the country.

He estimated that overall, between 50,000 and 75,000 hectares may have to be treated this summer.

The situation could be exacerbated in the coming days by heavy rains and high winds associated with a very strong tropical cyclone over Oman, the agency warned.

It noted that the Government of Yemen is mobilizing national funds to address the problem but international assistance will be necessary to support this effort.

According to FAO, a “very small part” of an average locust swarm eats the same amount of food in one day as about 2,500 people.