Sunday, December 18, 2011

Yemen crisis to hit 4 mn people in 2012: UN

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."

4 Yemeni soldiers killed in fighting with al-Qaida-linked militants

By Associated Press, December 18
SANAA, Yemen — Four Yemeni soldiers and two al-Qaida-linked militants were killed in clashes in the country’s south, military and medical officials said Sunday.
The fighting took place overnight outside the city of Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province that Islamic militants seized earlier this year, a military official said. A medical official said six soldiers were wounded in the fighting.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk to the media.
Al-Qaida-linked militants have overrun swaths of territory in Abyan, taking advantage of a security vacuum that has developed as a result of Yemen’s ongoing political unrest amid nine months of massive protests demanding the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Fighting with the militants has continued as Yemen tries to emerge from its crisis. Saleh is due to step down by the end of the month in return for immunity from prosecution under a deal he signed last month. Under the U.S.- and Saudi-backed deal, a national unity government has already been formed, bringing in opposition parties.
Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi has also formed a military committee joining both pro-regime forces and military units that defected to the opposition. On Saturday, the committee had succeeded in removing fighters, weapons and equipment of both sides from two main streets of the capital, Sanaa. But armed pockets of the rival forces could still be seen in side streets nearby.
The U.N. secretary-general’s envoy to Yemen, Jamal bin Omar, told reporters before he left Yemen Saturday that the military committee should end its work next Saturday in separating the rival sides, which at times engaged in heavy battles in the capital.
Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, the commander of the First Armored Division who defected and joined the protesters in March, expressed his backing for the military committee after meeting Sunday with ambassadors supervising enforcement of the deal.

UN seeks $447 mln for Yemen, Gulf Arabs urged to help more

Sun Dec 18, 2011
* Money to be targeted at 4 million vulnerable people
* Political turmoil worsens humanitarian conditions
* Over 30 pct of Yemeni children acutely malnourished
By Martina Fuchs
DUBAI, Dec 18 (Reuters) - The United Nations appealed on Sunday for nearly $450 million in humanitarian aid for conflict-torn Yemen to save it from becoming what one U.N. official called "another Somalia".
Yemen will need substantial humanitarian assistance over the next three to five years, especially for food, health care, sanitation and clean water, U.N. agencies and other relief groups working in Yemen said at a conference in Dubai.
"The Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan 2012 is seeking $447 million. This represents an increase of 95 percent compared to one year ago," they said, adding the money would be targeted to help around 4 million vulnerable people.
Almost a year of protests against outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh has brought Yemen's economy close to collapse, worsening already dire living conditions for many people who face acute shortages of fuel, food, water and electricity.
"The situation is dramatic. If we don't act now, we hit a humanitarian disaster soon," said Geert Cappelaere, representative of the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) in Yemen.
"If we don't act now, Yemen will become another Somalia from a humanitarian perspective."
Cappelaere said more than 30 percent of Yemeni children were acutely malnourished.
"In general, when you have 15 percent of under-five-year-olds that are acutely malnourished, we call that a nutrition emergency. In Yemen, you have twice the emergency level."
Aside from its political and economic crisis, Yemen must also cope with a growing influx of refugees from the Horn of Africa to its southern coast and a host of Yemenis forced to flee their homes by fighting in the south and the north.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that at the end of November around 214,000 refugees and almost half a million internally displaced persons were in Yemen.
Arrivals from Somalia had increased, with 3,292 reaching Yemen in September and 3,689 in October, compared to a monthly average of 1,648 in the first half of the year, UNHCR said.
This year's turmoil in Yemen had posed many challenges, the country's health and population minister, Ahmed al-Ansi, said.
"The humanitarian situation in Yemen is very precarious at the moment," he told Reuters. "It affects all parts of life of citizens, not just health, but their economic activity, the environment, social life."
Saleh last month signed a pact brokered by Yemen's wealthy Gulf Arab neighbours to hand power to his deputy Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Under the deal, Saleh's General People's Congress and opposition parties agreed to divide cabinet posts between them, forming a unity government to lead Yemen to a presidential election in February.
"What has happened in the last 10 months has put the clock in Yemen back 15 to 20 years when it comes to the development and basic services, which were already not that widespread throughout the country," UNICEF's Cappelaere said.
"What is now needed is a government that will make it a top priority not only to get the political side of things right, but also to give top priority for its development and the children."
The International Monetary Fund approved a $370 million loan for Yemen in August 2010, but only one disbursement of around $50 million has been made so far.
Aid officials urged Gulf countries to chip in more.
"The bulk of donor money comes from Western countries. It's time that Gulf countries deliver as well," said Naveed Hussain, UNHCR's representative in Yemen.