Hunger is becoming a normal part of everyday life in Yemen as nearly half of the population sinks into debt to feed their families, international humanitarian organization 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, including US Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, to turn their pledges into real aid to stem Yemen’s spiraling crisis.
The UN appeal for this year’s humanitarian response is woefully underfunded with just two percent of the $716 million it needs. The Yemeni government is calling for $17 billion to help save the fragile economy. Some $8 billion was pledged at previous conferences last year, but 78 percent 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 percent 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.