Global perspective Human stories

Senior UN official concerned about worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen

Conditions are tough for displaced women in Jaar, Yemen.
IRIN/Fuad Mosead
Conditions are tough for displaced women in Jaar, Yemen.

Senior UN official concerned about worsening humanitarian situation in Yemen

In the wake of a two-day visit, a senior United Nations official today raised concern about Yemen’s humanitarian situation, underscoring the need for strong commitment from the international community to support the millions of people there facing a worsening humanitarian crisis.

“I am very concerned by the acute humanitarian situation in Yemen, despite the recent, positive political developments. Millions of vulnerable people need help with health care, clean water and basic sanitation, food and nutrition,” the Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Catherine Bragg, said in a press release after her third visit to the country in 18 months.

Ms. Bragg was in Yemen assessing developments since her last visit in November 2011, and discussing with partners, including the Government and donors, ways of further strengthening the humanitarian response, despite serious security constraints.

New data shows that food insecurity in Yemen has doubled over the last two years. Five million people, or nearly a quarter of the population, are severely food insecure, meaning that they are not able to grow or buy enough food for their family and need urgent assistance. At least 800,000 children are suffering from acute malnutrition. Degradation of health, water and education systems also pose long-term challenges to Yemen’s recovery.

“The most vulnerable will need all the support they can get until we start seeing the fruit of political developments,” said Ms. Bragg.

Meeting UN agencies and partners in Yemen, Ms. Bragg discussed ways of overcoming the challenges posed by growing humanitarian needs.

“I am encouraged to see that the capacity of the humanitarian community in Yemen to respond has been expanded since my last visit,” she said, pointing out that new international organizations have started working in Yemen, some donors have increased their commitment and dialogue with non-state actors has increased access to vulnerable people in the north.

However, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the funding gap is considerable. Humanitarian partners expanded their programmes in Yemen in 2012, requesting total funding of $447 million to address humanitarian needs. But the humanitarian response plan is currently only 20 per cent funded, leaving a gap of almost $360 million.

Moreover, OCHA adds, growing humanitarian needs, beyond the areas directly affected by conflict, will have to be considered when the humanitarian partners again review the 2012 response plan at mid-year in June.