Mar 28, 2011
* Third of Yemen does not have enough food
* Yemen will need $224 million in aid this year-U.N.
* U.N. searching for ways to reach those affected
By Martina Fuchs
DUBAI, March 28 (Reuters) - Nearly a third of the 23 million people in impoverished Yemen do not have enough food to eat, and popular unrest is making it difficult for aid groups to reach them, the United Nations said on Monday.
Yemen will need $224 million in 2011 for humanitarian aid that will improve food, health, water and sanitation for women and children, Valerie Amos, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs said in an interview.
"As in Libya, the key issues for us is to get to the populations who are affected, this is absolutely key for us," Amos said.
Yemen poses a complex challenge for any aid group hoping to alleviate dire living conditions, with secessionists in the south, rebels in the north, an active al Qaeda wing and tens of thousands in the streets demanding an end to President Ali Abdullah Saleh's 32-year rule.
"Yemen is one of the countries where you already have a large number of internally displaced people, because of the security situation there. In addition to that, you now have the concerns of people being caught up in the hostilities."
Yemen, which sits on the end of the Arabian Peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia and Oman, faces acute water and food shortages, the U.N. agency said. Some 31.5 percent of the population is "food insecure", and around 12 percent are "severely food insecure".
Some 40 percent of Yemen's 23 million people live on $2 a day or less and a third face chronic hunger.
As of Monday, Saleh appeared to be alternating between conceding his position and defiance, as talks continue with the opposition over the country's future.
Asked what the Yemeni government should do, Amos said:
"To recognize that innocent people need to be protected ... Protecting civilians is obviously a key responsibility for the government."
"The prolonged and chronic suffering in the country means that humanitarian aid continues to be urgently needed," she said, adding the United Nations was in talks with the government and northern Houthi rebels to reach those most in need.