Yemen: UN humanitarian leaders renew plea for international support

12 September, 2013
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and WFP Executive Director Ms Ertharin Cousin meet people displaced by conflict in the Al Mazraq camp in northern Yemen. An estimated 300,000 people are still displaced from their homes, mainly from Sa'ada Governorate. Credit: OCHA/Ziryab
UN Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and WFP Executive Director Ms Ertharin Cousin meet people displaced by conflict in the Al Mazraq camp in northern Yemen. An estimated 300,000 people are still displaced from their homes, mainly from Sa'ada Governorate. Credit: OCHA/Ziryab

United Nations Humanitarian Chief Valerie Amos and World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director Ertharin Cousin have marked their visit to Yemen with a call to governments in the region and around the world to increase support for humanitarian programmes there.

“Yemen is a country wracked by chronic poverty and underdevelopment, and millions of Yemenis are struggling to cope,” said Ms. Valerie Amos. “People need food, water, education and health care.

“But they also want to know that there is investment to secure their future. We urgently need more funding to help those in need.”

This year, the UN and its partners have appealed for US$703 million to meet the basic needs of communities across the country. So far only about 44 per cent of this – approximately $310 million – has been received.

Almost half of all Yemenis do not get enough to eat and need humanitarian assistance. Child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen’s children under 5 years – around two million children – suffering from stunting. WFP and its partners, said Ms. Cousin, are providing food assistance to almost 5 million people.

“We are working to ensure families themselves are able to take care of their food needs through food for work, food for training and other income generating activities,” said Ms. Cousin. “We count on the support of our donors and the strong partnership with the Government of Yemen to help communities free themselves from the cycle of hunger.”

Multiple, concurrent humanitarian crises

Yemen is a country struggling to deal with multiple, concurrent humanitarian crises. Conflicts in the north and south have displaced hundreds of thousands of people, interrupting economies and devastating infrastructure. Even with the cessation of hostilities in the south, many are struggling to rebuild their lives. Much of Yemen’s farmland is heavily contaminated with landmines.

In the north, 300,000 Yemenis are displaced from their homes. A further 238,000 refugees and many migrants from the Horn of Africa are also stranded in Yemen. Children continue to be recruited and used by armed groups while women and girls are vulnerable to gender-based violence.

Ms. Amos and Ms. Cousin travelled to northern Yemen where they met displaced families in the Al Mazraq camp as well as migrants at a centre in the town of Haradh. Earlier, they visited the port city of Hudaydah where they saw first-hand the efforts of UN agencies and humanitarian partners to combat malnutrition and food insecurity.

They visited a health centre and school in Marawith District on the outskirts of Hudeidah, where WFP and the UK NGO Islamic Relief are providing food to vulnerable families.

“One of the reasons that I came here is to see what kind of help you need,” Ms Amos told a class of 14-16 year old girls at the school. “I am not sure we can build a hospital but we want to help children who are malnourished to get better.”

“They want what millions around the world already have”

Earlier, the two aid chiefs met with senior government officials in the capital Sana’a, including President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa and Foreign Minister Abu Baker Al-Qerbi, to discuss humanitarian needs and the challenges facing the country.

“The people of Yemen want peace, stability and security,” said Ms. Amos at a press conference in Sana’a following her trip to the north.

“They want what millions around the world already have. They want to have work, they want to educate their children, they want to be able to support their families, they want to have healthcare when they need it. Our role is to support the people of Yemen.”