Hunger is the new normal in Yemen’s forgotten crisis, Oxfam warns
Caroline Berger Regional Information and Communications Officer – Middle East, Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States
7th Mar 2013
Millions still waiting for aid despite generous pledges
Hunger is becoming a normal part of everyday life in Yemen as nearly half of the population sinks into debt to feed their families, aid agency Oxfam warned today. Oxfam is calling on the UK's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Saud as co-chairs of the Friends of Yemen conference in London today, to ask world leaders to turn their pledges into real aid to stem Yemen's spiralling crisis.
The UN appeal for this year's humanitarian response is woefully underfunded with just two per cent of the $716 million it needs. The Yemeni government is calling for $17bn to help save the fragile economy. Some $8 billion was pledged at previous conferences last year, but 78 per cent of the funds have still not been delivered.
Oxfam warned that funding gaps are making it hard for agencies to help those in need. The UN has reported that health projects for 200,000 Yemenis in Hajjah and Sa'ada in Yemen's north may be at risk if money does come through. Oxfam is calling on more donors to deliver their pledges quickly, warning that delays could cost lives now.
Colette Fearon, Oxfam's Country Director in Yemen, said. "Yemen is a forgotten crisis. Millions of people are struggling to feed their families, find clean water to drink, access basic healthcare and send their children to school. This conference must mark a turning point for ordinary Yemenis, when life really starts to improve. Too much time has been wasted on empty promises and donors must act now. Humanitarian aid must be quickly followed by investment to tackle the root causes of Yemen's hunger crisis. We urge other countries to follow the UK Government's lead in
providing long term funds to start Yemen on the road to recovery."
This year's wheat harvest is predicted to be eight per cent lower than last year's leaving many farmers facing food shortages. Already a quarter of a million malnourished children are at risk of dying unless they receive urgent support. In total, some 10.5 million people do not have enough food to eat, while 13 million people lack access to clean water, out of a population of 24 million. Widespread humanitarian needs as a result of conflict in the north and south of the country is further exasperating the crisis.
The conference comes at a critical time ahead of the National Dialogue, which sees Yemenis debating the shape of their new Government and the constitution. Oxfam said that addressing emergency needs and investing in basic services as well as ensuring that Yemeni women have a say in the vision of their country will help put fragile Yemen on track to a better future.
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Jonaid Jilani on 01865 472 193 or 07810 181 514 or email@example.com
• In Yemen - For Oxfam, Amel Alariqi on +967 711112954
• In Cairo - For Oxfam, Ihab el-Sakkout +20 12 777 03004
• In the UK: For Oxfam, Caroline Berger + 44 (0) 7824 473945
Notes to Editors
1. The Friends of Yemen is a group of over 30 countries and international organizations with an interest in Yemen's transition and future. The grouping is co-chaired by the UK and Saudi governments. The meeting today will discuss Yemen's security, political, humanitarian and economic needs.
2. A transitional government was formed after former President Ali Abdullah Saleh stepped down in February 2012, ending more than 30 years of rule, following months of protests that paralyzed Yemen's political system.
3. The government of Yemen is requesting another $11bn to re-build Yemen and prepare it for democratic elections in 2014.
4. Out of $8.1 billion dollars pledged in Riyadh and New York last year, $1.76bn has been disbursed, according to the Yemeni Government. This is separate to this year's UN humanitarian appeal, which is requesting $716 million and is only 2% funded.
5. The UK recently announced two-year funding to help 1 million people, Saudi Arabia has invested $1bn in the Central Bank to help Yemen import staple goods such as rice and wheat, the World Bank is set to invest $206 million in infrastructure projects and the Dutch have given €5 million for water and sanitation projects.
6. New figures from WFP reveal that the number of families who have fallen into debt buying food on credit has skyrocketed to almost half the population since last year.
7. Oxfam has been working in Yemen for 30 years. We have reached over half a million people affected by the crisis through cash distributions, as well as the provision of water and sanitation to those displaced by conflict in the north and south of the country. Oxfam is also training men and women in vocational skills, and giving families livestock so that they can earn a living.