DUBAI —December 18, 2011- Nearly four million people will be affected by Yemen's crisis in 2012, UN agencies said in Dubai on Sunday, warning that the restive Arabian Peninsula country is on its way to becoming another Somalia.
"About four million people will be affected by the crisis in Yemen in 2012 and will require immediate humanitarian support," said the United Nations Inter-Agency Standing Committee.
"While there have been significant political developments in Yemen, humanitarian needs are forecast by all actors to deteriorate still further over the next 12 months," UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, told reporters.
Kelly Gilbride, policy adviser of Oxfam, said UNICEF assessments of the cities of Hudaydah in the west and Haja in the north put malnutrition rates at above 30 percent.
"These (figures) are comparable to Somalia. We are talking about severe malnutrition rates," she said on the sidelines of a photographic exhibition in Yemen's oil-rich regional Emirati neighbour.
"Basic food prices have skyrocketed almost 50 percent (while) prices in fuel have peaked at five times the average amount" in the already poor nation, Gilbride said, adding that the crisis affects all of Yemen.
"This is why it's staggering at this point. We're not just talking about conflict affected areas any more. Men, women and children across Yemen are not able to find enough food every day."
Yemen has been rocked by months of deadly anti-government protests that destabilised the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has agreed to step down in February 2012 after 33 years in power.
A transitional unity government was sworn in on December 10, and on Saturday a military commission began removing checkpoints and barricades erected during the protests, raising hopes that Yemen might begin to see an end to nearly a year of unrest.
"One of the biggest problems we've been facing is that there is no access to all areas," Toyberg-Frandzen told AFP.
"There's also been security concerns: how do you get out to the people you're supposed to reach when you have internal strife and when you have a country that has been torn from within?"
Already impoverished Yemenis may also be paying a price because of the world economic downturn.
"There are many fears. One is that because of the economic crisis across the world we won't be able to mobilise the resources that are necessary," Toyberg-Frandzen added.
"What I really hope wouldn't happen is that Yemen would go into more strife and conflict."