Over half of Yemenis may need humanitarian aid, UN says

  
Yemenis receive food assistence in Sana'a. [Fares Khoailed/WFP].
Yemeni people receive food assistence in Sana'a, the capital. The UN estimates that about 10.5 million people in Yemen are food insecure. Rural populations are deemed particularly vulnerable. [Fares Khoailed/WFP].

About 14.7 million people in Yemen may be in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, as outbreaks of violence continue, according to the United Nations.

Some 13.1 million people in the country are in need of access to clean water, while about 10.5 million people are deemed food insecure and 1.3 million children are either malnourished or severely malnourished, according to the UN.

Around 23.9 million people live in Yemen, a country on the Arabian Peninsula, which suffers from chronic water shortages and tribal conflict.

Much of Yemen’s food is imported, largely in exchange for oil, of which supplies have become increasing scarce, according to human rights organisation Oxfam International.

The shortage of fuel supplies has seen food prices soar and water has become inaccessible.

“It is like a perfect storm,” said Bishow Parajuli, the UN World Food Programme’s representative in Yemen, who is based in Sana’a, the capital. “Security is a major challenge, even in Sana’a.”

The Islamist group Al-Qaeda has established a strong presence, particularly in the south and east of the country.

EU "determined to assist Yemen"

In Brussels, the European Union released a statement condemning the violence in the north of the country, where other armed groups are fighting, earlier this month.

Conflict has led to populations being displaced affecting domestic food production.

“Even in one of our programmes, at one stage, we were not able to get enough wheat milled locally to supply all the quantity of wheatflour for the target population,” Parajuli said in an interview.

The country has an estimated 243,000 refugees and 307,000 internally displaced people, according to EU statistics.

Street protests in 2011 led to the ousting of the previous ruler, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and a transitional government has been put in place since then.

The transitional government is the process of drafting a new constitution, which is to be followed by a referendum and general elections, planned for March next year.

“The EU is determined to assist Yemen throughout this transition, especially in security and public finance management, which are so crucial to reform,” said Alexandre Polack, the spokesperson for Andris Piebalgs, the European commissioner for development.

The EU is to triple its funding for Yemen in its next budgetary programme, the Multi-annual Financial Framework. The country is set to receive about €60 million for each year of the budget, which runs from 2014 to 2020.

Much of the assistance is earmarked for vulnerable rural communities, with more sustainable agriculture, water management and more access to basic services amongst the priorities, according to Polack.

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