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07 MAR 2013

Hunger is the new normal in Yemen’s forgotten crisis, warns Oxfam

Millions still waiting for aid despite generous pledges

Hunger is becoming a normal part of everyday life in Yemen as nearly half of the population sinks into debt to feed their families, international agency Oxfam warned today. Oxfam is calling on the UK's Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Saud as co-chairs of the Friends of Yemen conference in London today, to ask world leaders to turn their pledges into real aid to stem Yemen’s spiralling crisis.

The UN appeal for this year’s humanitarian response is woefully underfunded with just two per cent of the $716 million it needs. The Yemeni government is calling for US$17 billion to help save the fragile economy. Some US$8 billion was pledged at previous conferences last year, but 78 per cent of the funds have still not been delivered.

Oxfam warned that funding gaps are making it hard for agencies to help those in need. The UN has reported that health projects for 200,000 Yemenis in the northern cities Hajjah and Sa’ada may be at risk if money does not come through. Oxfam is calling on more donors to deliver their pledges quickly, warning that delays could cost lives now. 

“Yemen is a forgotten crisis,” said Colette Fearon, Oxfam’s Country Director in Yemen. “Millions of people are struggling to feed their families, find clean water to drink, access basic healthcare and send their children to school. This conference must mark a turning point for ordinary Yemenis, when life really starts to improve. Too much time has been wasted on empty promises and donors must act now. Humanitarian aid must be quickly followed by investment to tackle the root causes of Yemen’s hunger crisis. We urge other countries to follow the UK government’s lead in providing long term funds to start Yemen on the road to recovery.”

This year’s wheat harvest is predicted to be eight per cent lower than last year’s, leaving many farmers facing food shortages. Already a quarter of a million malnourished children are at risk of dying unless they receive urgent support. In total, some 10.5 million people do not have enough food to eat, while 13 million people lack access to clean water, out of a population of 24 million.  Widespread humanitarian needs as a result of conflicts in the north and south of the country are further exasperating the crisis.

The conference comes at a critical time ahead of the National Dialogue, which sees Yemenis debating the shape of their new government and the constitution. Oxfam said that addressing emergency needs and investing in basic services as well as ensuring that Yemeni women have a say in the vision of their country will help put fragile Yemen on track to a better future.

What Oxfam is doing

Oxfam has been working in Yemen for 30 years. We have reached over half a million people affected by the crisis through cash distributions, as well as the provision of water and sanitation to those displaced by conflict in the north and south of the country.  Oxfam is also training men and women in vocational skills, and giving families livestock so that they can earn a living. 

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About Oxfam

Oxfam is dedicated to fighting poverty and inequity worldwide. The international and independent development and humanitarian organisation tackles poverty in four main ways: sustainable development in poor communities, disaster relief, local and global advocacy, and education with Hong Kong youth. Established in Hong Kong in 1976, Oxfam Hong Kong is a founding member of Oxfam, an international confederation that has assisted poor people in 94 countries. Oxfam Hong Kong alone has supported poor people in over 70 countries/regions.