World Bulletin / News Desk
Nearly half of Yemenis go to bed hungry every night as political instability compounds a global food and fuel price surge, giving the Arabian Peninsula state the world's third-highest rate of child malnutrition, the World Food Programme said on Sunday.
Yemen has been in turmoil since last year's revolt against 33 years of rule by Ali Abdullah Saleh when already weak state control in outlying regions broke down as the army split into pro- and anti-Saleh factions and some groups occupied some areas.
Forced to import most of its food needs because of a paucity of arable land, Yemen has also suffered from a rise in global food and fuel prices, WFP spokesman Barry Came told Reuters.
"Five million people, or 22 percent of the population, can't feed themselves or buy enough to feed themselves ... These are mostly landless labourers, so they don't grow their own food, and with high food prices they can't buy it either," said Came.
"In addition, there is another five million who are being really hard hit by high food prices and on the edge of being food insecure. So 10 million people in this country go to bed hungry every night."
The number of people receiving daily WFP food rations has risen from 1.2 million in January to over 3.8 million, but poor infrastructure and fear of kidnappings by tribes have complicated the logistics of providing food aid.
Thirteen percent of Yemeni children were now acutely malnourished as a result of the political and economic strains of the past year, giving Yemen the third-highest rate of child malnutrition in the world, he said.
International donors pledged $1.46 billion in aid to the country of 24 million at a meeting in New York on Thursday attended by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who said the pledge would help Yemen avoid a civil war.
Donors had already promised $6.4 billion but will expect more action on political and security reform in return.