|Hunger grips Yemenis children|
By Reuters, The New York Times, September 30, 2012
SANA, Yemen (Reuters) — Nearly half of Yemenis go to bed hungry as political instability compounds a surge in global food and fuel prices, giving Yemen the world’s third-highest rate of child malnutrition, the World Food Program said Sunday.
Yemen has been in turmoil since the revolt last year against Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had ruled for more than three decades. Already weak state control in outlying regions broke down as the army split into pro- and anti-Saleh factions and Al Qaeda militants occupied some areas.
The country has to import most of its food needs because of a paucity of arable land, and the rise in food and fuel prices has hit it badly, a World Food Program spokesman, Barry Came, said.
“Five million people, or 22 percent of the population, can’t feed themselves or buy enough to feed themselves,” Mr. Came said. “These are mostly landless laborers, so they don’t grow their own food, and with high food prices they can’t buy it either.”
“There is another 5 million who are being really hard hit by high food prices and on the edge of being food insecure,” he said. “So 10 million people in this country go to bed hungry every night.”
The number of people receiving daily food rations from the United Nations agency has risen to more than 3.8 million from 1.2 million in January, but poor infrastructure and fear of kidnappings have complicated the logistics of providing food aid.
“They are really hit by fuel and food price rises,” Mr. Came said, “but there’s also political instability, conflict, terrorist activity and huge population displacement. Without political security and stability you can’t solve the problem.”
Thirteen percent of children were now acutely malnourished as a result of the political and economic strains of the past year, giving Yemen, which has a population of 24 million, the third-highest rate of child malnutrition in the world, Mr. Came said.
Mr. Saleh was forced to stand down in February after more than 2,000 people had died. Mr. Came said that there were now 500,000 internally displaced Yemenis after the fight with militants in the south and Mr. Saleh’s 2009-10 war against Shiite rebels.
International donors pledged $1.46 billion in aid to the country at a meeting in New York on Thursday. The donors, including China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States, as well as Gulf Arab states, had already promised $6.4 billion.