Yemen Humanitarian Crisis Worsening As Aid Agencies Warn 'Millions Are Starving'

Millions of people in Yemen are starving and in desperate need of aid humanitarian workers have warned, just days after a suicide bomb attack killed scores of people in the capital of Sanaa.

The political instability and violence shaking the region is only worsening the food crisis, with Oxfam stating that there are 10 million people or 44% of the population without enough to eat.

For five million of those Yemenis the situation is said to be critical, and emergency food is needed. Children under five are the worst affected.

Reports of mothers taking their children from school, sending them to beg on the streets or out to work show the extent of many families' desperation.

Some children are being sent to neighbouring Saudi Arabia in a bid to save them from malnourishment.

"You are really wondering how people are able to survive” photographer Wolfgang Gressmann who spent time Yemen, told Oxfam.

Children are being sent out to look for food

The Friends of Yemen group meeting in Saudi capital of Riyadh on Wednesday is likely to discuss the suicide attack, for which Al Qaeda have claimed responsibility. The fragility of country's fledgling transition government is also likely to be on the meeting's agenda, which Britain is co-chairing.

Seven groups - Care International, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Mercy Corps, Merlin, Oxfam and Save the Children have formed a coalition urging The Friends of Yemen to also consider the worsening humanitarian crisis.

A child looks for food on a rubbish dump in Yemen

Letta Tayler, a terrorism and counterterrorism researcher for Human Rights Watch has stressed the importance of solving these problems to secure a stable future for the country. Blogging for The Huffington Post she echoes the seven aid agencies who have delivered their warning. She writes:

"Left to fester, instability and hunger will only provide further openings for groups such as AQAP and Ansar al-Sharia to flourish in Yemen."

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam's international director told The Guardian

"Yemeni families are at the brink and have exhausted their ways of coping with the crisis.

"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."

Displacement means many people have lost their property. The food crisis is worsened by landmines and explosives littering what could be fertile agricultural ground.

International Development Minister Alan Duncan will join discussions in Riyadh. Britain has promised £28m in aid in Yemen, while Saudi Arabi, co-chairing the meeting, has promised to continue to supply fuel to the country. Duncan told the Press Association:

"Yemen's partners and the wider community must respond to this humanitarian crisis but also deliver longer term support to address the root causes of the problems the country faces and help it start to rebuild after years of internal conflict and political instability."

Wolfgang Gressmann agrees with Duncan. He told Oxfam that the country is craving sustained support from the international community.

"What I take with me from talking to these communities is that the most important thing that people want is hope, and hope by having partners that are supporting them over a longer period of time and not just by a single distribution of humanitarian aid. “

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