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Yemen’s humanitarian crisis could threaten political gains, warns UN relief official

Children in Al-Mazrak IDP camp in Haradh, northern Yemen.
Children in Al-Mazrak IDP camp in Haradh, northern Yemen.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis could threaten political gains, warns UN relief official

Yemen is facing a worsening humanitarian situation which could destabilize the country’s gains on the political front, a senior United Nations relief official warned today, noting that half of the country’s 24 million people are in need of assistance.

“There will be no political transition if we don’t deal with the humanitarian situation,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, told a news conference in Geneva.

Yemen has been undergoing a democratic transition led by President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi, who came to power in a February 2012 election. A major milestone was achieved in March of this year with the opening of the national dialogue conference that will feed into a constitution-making process and pave the way for general elections in 2014.

While the political transition is on track, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed warned that this process could “collapse” unless the “dramatic” humanitarian situation is addressed.

According to the Humanitarian Coordinator, 10 million people in Yemen are in need of food aid, of which about 5 million were faced with acute food shortage; 6 million people do not have access to health care; and 1 million children are facing malnutrition, with some 150,000 of them facing the risk of death due to acute malnutrition.

The country is also grappling with over 340,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), most of them uprooted from their homes due to fighting in the north and south of the country, he said. In addition, some 25,000 migrants – mainly from Ethiopia – are also facing various hardships, with a large number falling victim to violence and other inhuman treatment by human traffickers. Other problems include gender-based violence and the recruitment of children by armed groups.

The international humanitarian community has sought $716 million for the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan to provide emergency and early recovery assistance to 7.7 million of the country’s most vulnerable. However, the plan is so far only 28 per cent funded.

“We are still in need of major assistance if we would like to deal with this situation, which as I said, in my view, is quite dramatic,” said Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

Humanitarian agencies would like to provide water and sanitation for 3 million people inside Yemen; food for over 7 million; and health care services for 4.2 million. The state of malnutrition is “extremely grave,” he stressed, adding that UN agencies are targeting 700,000 children this year for nutrition interventions.

In addition, agencies are aiming to assist 622,000 children to receive education and provide services for 1.4 million people in terms of protection services, including 500,000 children.