CAIRO, 8 May 2012 (IRIN) – Yemen is heading for a major humanitarian crisis unless relief organizations quickly boost their response capacity, and donors, including wealthy neighbours, provide much-needed funding to contain rising malnutrition, disease and poverty.
“The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has reached a level where it affects millions of people, not only internally displaced people, refugees, and migrants, but also ordinary Yemeni families in all areas,” said a joint statement by international humanitarian actors, including UN agencies, the League of Arab States, and the Organisation of Islamic Conference, after a 6 May meeting in the Egyptian capital, Cairo.
Over the last two months, nearly 95,000 people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of two new conflicts. Since mid-February, an estimated 56,000 people (8,000 families) have been displaced in the south from Abyan Governorate, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In the north, an estimated 38,000 people (5,500 families) have been displaced in Hajjah Governorate alone.
“Addressing the humanitarian needs of all these families is key to bringing stability back to Yemen and avoiding further deterioration,” the statement emphasized.
Raul Rosende, the head of OCHA in Yemen, told IRIN: “In 2011, the humanitarian situation in Yemen was bad. In 2012, things are worse. We have seen deterioration in the main indicators, and this is why we need to improve our humanitarian response.”
According to OCHA, some 44 percent of Yemen’s population – over 10 million people – are food insecure. Of that number, five million cannot produce or buy enough food. In Al Bayda Governorate, over 60 percent of the population are food insecure.
Aid workers partly blame the situation on insecurity. More than 900 schools have closed, while damage to the health infrastructure and lack of vaccines and medicines has left a large number of children vulnerable to diseases like diarrhoea, cholera, polio and measles.
“This is a major humanitarian crisis,” said Lubna Alaman, the World Food Programme (WFP) country director. “We do not want to see the children dying.”
Most of the recently displaced families were forced out of their homes at short notice when fighting came close to their communities. “It is likely that these 13,500 new IDPs [internally displaced persons]… will remain displaced for a protracted period, possibly years,” OCHA said.
|I think it is high time the affluent neighbours of Yemen came forward and contributed. If this does not happen, the humanitarian crisis can lead to further political instability.|
In Abyan, fighting between government forces and the militant Ansar Al Sharia group has intensified, said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Recent clashes in Lawdar (Abyan) have left hundreds of casualties and triggered a new wave of displacement. In Khanfar, people are leaving their homes because they fear more violence.
“The current security situation has hampered our access to certain areas, mainly in Abyan, and is making our work more difficult,” Yehia Khalil, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Aden, said on 3 May. “The intense fighting has slowed our aid distributions in Abyan. We are concerned about the situation in Lawdar, to which we hope to soon gain access so that we can respond to humanitarian needs.”
Aid agencies face funding shortfall to tackle hunger as drought in Sahel and political uncertainty worsen crisis for millions