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Malnutrition soars in conflict-ridden Yemen

Aid agencies say country is on brink of humanitarian disaster as one million children are acutely malnourished.

Last updated: 16 Jul 2012 08:34
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Yemen has the second highest level of chronic malnutrition in the world after Afghanistan [EPA]

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) says that hundreds of thousands of children are facing starvation in Yemen, with one million children acutely malnourished.

"Close to 60 per cent of Yemeni children under the age of five today are suffering from chronic malnutrition," UNICEF representative Gert Kapelari said.

"That makes Yemen the country with the highest level of chronic malnutrition in the world after Afghanistan," saying it poses huge problems for Yemen's future.

"About 250,000 children today in Yemen are at risk of dying or having lifelong consequences if we don't act immediately," he said.

At Revolution Hospital in the capital, Sanaa, emaciated children lie on hospital beds, their bones jutting out.

Aid agencies say the country is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster, suffering from chronic levels of poverty.

Oxfam's Joy Singhal said that 44 per cent of the population - around 10 million people - are going hungry.

Singhal says more and more people are finding it difficult to afford to buy food, a knock-on effect of increasing levels of unemployment and rising prices.

Yemen imports up to 90 per cent of its main staple foods, including wheat and sugar, which many households struggle to purchase.

Conflict and political instability have also played a factor, greatly increasing the number of internally displaced people (IDP) who are now dependent on food aid.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 670,000 IDPs rely on food aid in the south and north of the country.

In March, the WFP reported that levels of food insecurity in Yemen had doubled since 2009.

The European Union recently said it would provide an extra six million dollars in humanitarian aid, to help combat a food crisis which could destabilise the conflict-torn country.

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