Yemen starving as world stands by: aid groups
Almost half of Yemens population does not have enough food to eat and world powers are unwilling to help because of the unstable political situation, seven aid agencies said on Wednesday.
The charities called for urgent aid to avert a catastrophe as representatives from Western and Arab Gulf nations were meeting in the Saudi capital Riyadh to discuss how to tackle poverty and lawlessness in Yemen, where militant group al-Qaeda are waging war against the government.
Penny Lawrence, international director at Oxfam, said donors were being short-sighted by focusing solely on politics and security in the country.
"Failure to respond adequately to the humanitarian needs now will put more lives at risk, further entrench poverty and could undermine political transition in the country," she said in a statement.
Yemens government has lost control of large swathes of the country in the past year during a political crisis that led to president Ali Abdullah Saleh stepping down in February.
A suicide bomb attack carried out by an al-Qaeda affiliate which killed 90 soldiers in the capital Sanaa on Monday highlighted the unstable security situation.
U.S. President Barack Obama said this week he was very worried about extremism in Yemen. Washington says Al-Qaeda has used political chaos as an opportunity to build a solid base in the country and plan attacks inside and outside Yemen.
The Sanaa attack came weeks after Washington said intelligence agencies had foiled an al Qaeda airline bomb plot hatched in Yemen.
Five million people are in need of urgent care in Yemen and 44 percent of the population - about 10 million people - do not have enough to eat, the aid groups said. But the United Nations humanitarian appeal for Yemen is short of $262 million, with only 43 percent of funding raised.
International donors argue the chaotic security situation in the country makes it impossible to know whether their money will be used effectively.
But the work of aid groups in Yemen proves assistance can be delivered in a transparent and accountable way, agencies CARE, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Save the Children said in a statement.
"Donors need to heed the lessons of the Horn of Africa and respond now before the crisis further deepens," said Hashem Awnallah, Islamic Relief Yemen country director.
The United States, European Union, France, Egypt and Russia were attending the Riyadh summit on Wednesday, as were Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
Upheaval in Yemen has left one in three children severely malnourished in some areas, according to the United Nations.
Oxfam said women are particularly at risk and early marriages have increased as families marry off daughters so they do not have to provide food for them.
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