Aid agencies launch Yemen appeal

Yemen needs a major boost in humanitarian support if the transition to political stability is to stand a good chance of succeeding, said aid workers at today’s launch of the 2013 Humanitarian Response Plan.

This year’s appeal in the region’s least developed country is for US$716 million, up 22 percent on the 2012 appeal ($585 million), only 58 percent of which was financed.

“Last year we were talking about Yemen collapsing, Yemeni being a failed state. Now we are talking about progress,” said UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) representative in Yemen Naveed Huseein. “Yemen is now trying very hard to turn a page and they need support.”

The country is currently going through a transition process brokered by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) under former Vice-President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, with presidential elections scheduled for 2014.

“The signs are very encouraging and we have to build on this to help tip the balance from relief work to early recovery,” Rosemary Willey-Al'Sanah, conflict prevention and early recovery adviser for the UN Development Programme in Yemen, told IRIN.

Around half of the appeal is to alleviate food insecurity - 10.5 million Yemenis (out of a population of 23 million) do not have enough to eat, and this year’s appeal aims to reach seven million with some form of aid - often food vouchers and cash transfers.

“This is a transitional period and the government recognizes that for the transitional programme to succeed the humanitarian appeal is crucial. The political process has gone far better than anyone forecast. That’s why moving on to early recovery now can really contribute to change,” said Willey-Al'Sanah.

Humanitarian funding has increased over the past few years, up from $121 million in 2010.

"There have been positive political developments but the situation remains fragile"

Yemen is one of the world’s major humanitarian crises, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), with water and food shortages, and conflicts such as with Houthi rebels in the north, and the 2011-12 conflict in Abyan Governorate where Islamic militants drove out government forces.

Around 13 million Yemenis do not have access to safe water and sanitation, and 431,000 are internally displaced.

A further stress on the country is the arrival of migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa - more than 100,000 arrived in 2012, according to UNHCR. Some 230,000 refugees (mainly from Somalia) are based in Yemen, though Omar Abdulaziz, deputy minister of planning and international cooperation, says the unofficial number of migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa is around one million.

190 aid projects planned

The 2013 appeal includes 190 projects - an increase of 80 percent - and brings together 89 organizations, including UN agencies and international and local NGOs, to try and ensure a sustainable transition following the end of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 32-year rule, which ended with Arab Spring-related protests in 2011-12.

“There have been positive political developments but the situation remains fragile. The opened space has allowed us to carry out assessments and directly increase the number of projects we can carry out in this year’s appeal,” Trond Jensen, head of OCHA in Yemen, told IRIN.

“But the political situation for people is still very, very fragile and efforts need to be ramped up to get to a stage where people on the ground really benefit from a peace dividend,” he said.

Part of the focus will be on Abyan, where an estimated 80,000 people have returned to their homes after last year’s conflict.

While aid workers hope they can soon shift attention to recovery projects and development, the core focus of the appeal is on life-saving services to cover basic humanitarian needs.