Dubai: UN agencies warned on Sunday that Yemen is on its way to becoming another Somalia, saying nearly four million people will be affected by the impoverished nation's political and economic crisis in 2012.
"About four million people will be affected by the crisis in Yemen in 2012 and will require immediate humanitarian support," said the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee. More than half will be "severely food insecure," said the IASC statement.
"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 in Dubai.
"In Yemen there's a new Somalia in the making," Naveed Hussain, a representative from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said. "Somalia became one of the largest refugee-producing countries in the world. We don't want that to happen to Yemen."
Kelly Gilbride, policy adviser of Oxfam, said UNICEF assessments of the cities of Hudaydah in the west and Hajja 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.
Yemeni Health Minister Ahmed Qasem al-Ansi said: "Around 5,00,000 Yemeni children below five years old suffer from severe malnutrition." According to Gilbride, "basic food prices have skyrocketed almost 50 percent (while) prices in fuel have peaked at five times the average amount," adding that the crisis affects the whole country.
"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 against the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has agreed to step down in February 2012 after 33 years in power.