While the devastating suicide bomb in the Yemeni capital Sana’a grabbed international headlines, the country’s ordinary people are increasingly fighting just to make ends meet. In a joint statement, a group of seven charities warned this week that 10 million Yemenis—44% of the population—are undernourished, with 5 million requiring emergency aid. The so-called Friends of Yemen gathering in the Saudi capital Riyadh this week is widely expected to concentrate on shoring up security and the fragile political transition the in the country. In their warning, the aid agencies—CARE, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Save the Children—say this focus is preventing action to alleviate poverty and hunger. They say malnutrition rates have doubled in Yemen since 2009, partly as a result of a surge in food and fuel prices. More than half a million Yemenis have fled their homes because of increased violence and the country is also coping nearly 300,000 refugees from Somalia and the Horn of Africa.
For the last two decades Yemen’s economy was largely driven by oil, and this is quickly running out. But with nearly 80% of government revenue still coming from oil, Yemenis are vulnerable to shifts in international commodity prices and domestic oil output, according to UK think-tank Chatham House. It said the 2011 political crisis created high levels of inflation and disrupted supplies of basic goods. “There is a need to reinforce existing social protection mechanisms and bolster humanitarian aid to ensure the availability of, and access to, basic commodities for the country’s most vulnerable people,” the report finds. (BBC News, IRIN, May 22; ABC News, May 21)