Unmet humanitarian needs could threaten Yemen’s progress, stability – UN official

Children in Al-Mazrak IDP camp in Haradh, northern Yemen. Photo: OCHA

4 February 2014 – While Yemen has made good progress in its political transition, the country will not enjoy stability unless the humanitarian needs of its people are met, a senior United Nations relief official warned today.

“There will be no stability in Yemen if more than half of the population is waking up in the morning without the possibility to have food; is living below the line of poverty,” Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, told a news conference in Geneva.

“What does it mean, then, to organize elections or have any political process if people are still suffering from humanitarian needs?”

Political stability must go hand in hand with development, he stated, noting that the country has suffered a series of internal conflicts in recent years, which have led to insecurity and a lack of development.

More than half of the population of 25 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 13 million who do not have access to safe drinking water. There are also close to 250,000 registered refugees and close to 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).

In addition, Yemen has the second highest rate of malnutrition in the world, after Afghanistan, with some 1 million children five years and younger suffering from this condition, while 50 per cent of children under the age of five have stunted growth.

Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed acknowledged that Yemen has had a “fairly successful” political process, having just concluded a national dialogue – the only country among those that underwent the ‘Arab Spring’ pro-democracy movement to have done so.

However, to ensure that the gains made so far in the transition are not jeopardized, it is vital that they translate into tangible changes in the lives of Yemen’s people, and that the international community stand by them in this process.

The UN and its partners have appealed for $592 million to carry out its development activities in Yemen this year.

“We do have an opportunity today as an international community to stabilize Yemen, and that’s an opportunity we should not miss,” Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed stressed.


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