Yemen’s Other Crisis: Humanitarian Crisis Grows as Violence Increases

May 21, 2012 8:46pm

Yemen is not only one of the most dangerous countries in the world, it’s also home to one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, according to the grim numbers offered today by State Department officials.

Nearly 40 percent of the country — 10 million people — don’t have regular access to f1ood and 1 million children under the age of 5 suffer from acute malnutrition.  More than half a million Yemenis have fled their homes because of increased violence and the country is coping with nearly 300,000 refugees from Somalia and the Horn of Africa.

Yemen has not had a proper government for nearly a year, since the fall of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, causing the country’s already precarious humanitarian situation to deteriorate further, while providing an opportunity for violence and extremism to increase.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz reported from inside Yemen, where U.S. officials told her al Qaeda is digging in and attempting to take control of large swaths of the country. The terrorist group made its presence known today in a deadly suicide bombing that targeted Yemeni soldiers who are training to fight insurgents.

“The suicide bombing overnight that killed nearly 100 people — and up to 300 are injured — is just a reminder to us of how much work remains to be done, how vital it is to help the Yemeni government rebuild its political and economic institutions following a year of unrest,” said Kelley Clements, the State Department deputy assistant secretary for population, refugees and migration.

On the security side, the United States has increased its drone use and support of Yemen’s military, but has also ramped up its humanitarian aid. The United States is providing more than $73 million of humanitarian assistance to Yemen, which is being used for food aid, food vouchers, water and sanitation programs, and medical clinics.

State Department officials say humanitarian aid, not only from the United States but from other countries as well, has to be part of the strategy to stabilize Yemen and fight extremism.

“The comprehensive strategy that we’re trying to implement..really emphasizes governance and economic development as much as the security issues,” Clements said.

A Friends of Yemen meeting, which includes a group of Persian Gulf and European countries along with the United States, is set for this week in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The group will discuss continuing  support for Yemen’s political transition in light of the growing security and humanitarian problems.

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