Oxfam and Islamic Relief warn of crisis in Yemen as families survive on diet of tea and bread

Donors need learn the lessons of Horn of Africa and give now

Oxfam and Islamic Relief today (14 December 2011) raised the alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen as new surveys revealed that people are going without food for three days and that one in five children is acutely malnourished in some parts of the country. The warning came as the UN launched a new emergency appeal for the country.

Kelly Gilbride policy officer from Oxfam said:

“Millions of Yemenis are at breaking point and do not know where their next meal is coming from.

"People in Al-Jawf province, report going without food for 3 days and women are being forced to beg on the streets to get enough food for their families. Many families are relying on a diet of tea and bread.”

New malnutrition data has underlined the severity of the crisis. A recent survey in Abyan found that almost one in five children is suffering from acute malnutrition. This is above emergency levels.

The aid agencies said that the crisis is not only touching people affected by conflict or living in camps. Surging food and fuel prices, combined with political turmoil and violence, have pushed poor Yemenis across the country to the brink. The aid agencies called on donors to fund the new appeal quickly and generously to prevent the crisis becoming a catastrophe. It called on them to heed the lessons from the Horn of Africa of the tragic human cost of responding too late to urgent humanitarian need.

The UN is appealing for $447 million to respond to the needs of four million people, 44 percent of the total population in need. The funds required have almost doubled since last year. The UN has said that it expects the humanitarian situation in Yemen to worsen in 2012. Despite the urgency of the situation, humanitarian agencies in Yemen have long faced funding shortfalls.

Kelly Gilbride from Oxfam continued:

“People are struggling to cope. They are selling livestock and other assets and going into debt just to put food on the table. In Hajjah, there are reports of children being pulled out of school to work as their families need money for food. It is important that world leaders wake up to the extent of the emergency in Yemen.  The focus on the political transition, while important, should not overshadow the dire and growing human needs.”

Hashem Awnallah, Islamic Relief Country Director, said:

“I sincerely hope that Yemen’s neighbors take the lead with other donors in responding to the pressing needs of Yemenis, not just in conflict affected areas but also in addressing Yemen’s critical development challenges, especially now that Yemen has taken a step in the right direction in the process of restoring peace and stability in this important and beautiful country.”

Notes to editors

1. Global Acute Malnutrition rates above 15 percent are considered to have passed the emergency threshold.  Acute malnutrition rates are reported to be 18.6 percent in Abyan according to the UN.
2. Video and photographs of the crisis in Yemen are available. Spokespeople from both agencies are available for interview.

Oxfam has been responding to the needs of thousands of displaced people temporarily living in schools and camps in Aden. We continue to deliver water, sanitation and hygiene services to up to 60,000 people living in camps and host communities in the north.

In Amran and Sa’ada where it’s difficult to access, we’re working through partners to provide water and sanitation facilities.

In Hodeida, we are preparing to give cash transfers to up to 100,000 people who are suffering from hunger so they can access food and help reduce malnutrition levels.

We also have plans in place to support the needs of up to 100,000 people, should the current political situation deteriorate further, leaving vulnerable people without the means to meet their basic needs.

More on Oxfam's humanitarian response in Yemen (OxfamGB)

Contact information

Louis Belanger
email: louis.belanger@oxfaminternational.org
tel: +1 212 687 2678; mob: +1 917 224 0834