Written By: Yemen Observer Staff
Article Date: Oct 13, 2011 - 8:41:46 AM
With malnutrition already at "alarming" levels, the humanitarian and political situation is Yemen is worsening. The UN has warned not to ignore crisis symptoms, with the famine in Somalia serving as a reminder of the consequences.
Following yesterday’s meeting at the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Yemen, Jamal Benomar, warned that the situation has "deteriorated very dramatically.”
The capital city, Sana’a, is said to be split between rival forces, while a handful of countries are reportedly not in the control of the government.
Yesterday, the UN Security Council held discussions on the growing death toll in Yemen, which is related to the political situation. Tens of thousands of people staged a rally in Yemen’s capital, at the same time as the worsening security situation has forced some humanitarian agencies to evacuate their staff.
The Security Council has issued a statement supporting the peace plan proposed by the Gulf Cooperation Council, which would see power handed over to a transitional authority. The deal has been rejected by Yemeni President of 33 years, Ali Abdullah Saleh. There have been calls, however, for a UN resolution on the issue.
Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, has also spoken out in support of Yemeni people on the ground, suffering from economic, environmental and political vulnerabilities.
“Accurate information on what is happening is becoming increasingly difficult to gather,” she warned.
The political conflict has compounded problems of poverty and drought, making survival a daily struggle for millions of the country’s inhabitants. An estimated 100,000 people have been displaced by violence in the south, while 300,000 have been forced to flee their homes due to violence in the north. At least 94 children have been killed and 240 wounded by either gunshots or shelling since the protests began earlier this year – two alone were killed last week.
“Every night, a third of the Yemeni people go to bed hungry,” said Amos in a statement. “In some parts of the country, one in three children are malnourished — among the highest malnutrition levels in the world.”
There are 3.6 million children under the age of five in Yemen, 43 per cent of whom are underweight and 58 per cent of whom have had their growth stunted.
Now, with the overcrowding of hospitals and medical clinics, access to health care and safe water is becoming increasingly difficult. Some facilities have closed down altogether.
Ms. Amos has warned the international community not to ignore the situation in Yemen, recalling the ongoing famine in Somalia.
“In neighbouring Somalia, we have seen what happens if warnings go unheeded, and too little is done in time to stop a crisis. Let us not repeat the same mistake in Yemen.”
Last week, the Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Anthony Lake, called for the protection of children caught in the crossfire of the Yemeni conflict.
Like Ms. Amos, he too feared that Yemen was “sinking deeper into a humanitarian crisis.”
Even before the conflict, malnutrition rates in Yemen were extremely high, caused in part by rising food prices since the beginning of the year. The price of bread has doubled over the past six months, pushing many households into a state of hunger.
According to today’s statements by a World Food Programme (WFP) official, rising food prices, severe fuel shortages and political instability are limiting peoples’ abilities to feed themselves. An assessment conducted by the agency in the governates of Rayma, Amran, Hajjah and Ibb – the four most food insecure regions – showed that families are skipping meals altogether or are being forced to choose between food and vital health care.
“Child malnutrition rates are already well above emergency levels in parts of the country and are as bad as malnutrition rates in some of the worst countries in the world, which receive more international media attention,” said Lake last week.
The WFP is currently assisting 70,000 displaced people.
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