Hunger pangs for Yemeni children
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The UN says the situation is serious and nearly one million children under the age of five face acute malnutrition and a quarter of them are at risk of death or long-term impairment if relief does not reach them soon.
‘‘This is three times more malnourished children than in Somalia. Over 10 million people, 44 per cent of the population, are food insecure. This means that they go to bed hungry and that they do not know where their next meal is coming from,’’ said Raul Rosende, Head of Office of the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen.
The UN estimates that two million people of the 10 million are severely food insecure, 2.6 million have no water, and 407,000 are internally displaced with different needs such as shelter and food.
‘‘In Somalia the crisis was exacerbated by humanitarian aid coming too little, too late. In Yemen it is still not too late, and the humanitarian community is working hard to draw attention and funding to the desperate situation many Yemenis are facing,’’ Rosende told Khaleej Times.
In one year, the number of severely food insecure Yemenis has doubled — from 2.5 million to five million. ‘‘In November 2011, we asked for $447 million to pay for the 2012 Humanitarian Response Plan. Now, six months later and based on new assessments, we have had to increase our cost estimate with another $80 million.’’
The normal coping mechanisms of the Yemeni society have been broken down; host communities no longer have the means to support internally displaced families showing up at their doorstep, and there is no longer help to be sought from the extended family. Forty per cent of the Yemenis live below the poverty threshold, and youth unemployment stands at 53 per cent. A quarter of all food purchases are made on credit.
The humanitarian team in Yemen works in 11 clusters, such as water and sanitation, food, health, nutrition, shelter, protection and education.
Critical sectors cover the western parts of the country, from Sa’ada in the North, via Haradh, Hudaydah and Sana’a in the central region and Taiz down to the south, represented by Aden and Abyan.
‘In the current military offensive against militants in Abyan Governorate, thousands of families have fled — often to places where they are difficult to reach because of the fighting,’’ said the UN official. ‘‘In the South, we are still negotiating broader humanitarian access and humanitarian corridors to reach those in need with aid.’’
Gulf countries and the West have pledged more than $4 billion in aid to the impoverished country. The UAE, last week, said it would help with Dh500 million worth of food aid for suffering Yemenis.