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Yemen Suffering 'Catastrophic' Food Crisis as US Escalates Its Drone War

- Common Dreams staff

As the U.S. continues its covert drone war on Yemen, the country is on the brink of a hunger crisis of catastrophic proportions, aid agencies report today.

Young girl waiting at a cash grant distribution by Oxfam GB in Al Hodeidah governorate, district of Al-Jarrahi, Yemen in March 2012. (photo: Wolfgang Gressmann/Oxfam, March 2012) The aid groups, including Oxfam, Save the Children and CARE, report that 10 million people, 44 percent of the population, don't have enough to eat and say that the malnutrition rates are "alarming."

While the Guardian reports that the U.S. has spent "hundreds of millions of dollars" on Yemen's fight against al-Qaida and has escalated its drone war on the country, Oxfam notes today that "the UN humanitarian appeal for the country is just 43 percent funded – a $262 million shortfall."

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s International Director, points to the focus of aid on "security" as fatal to the Yemeni people:

“Yemeni families are at the brink and have exhausted their ways of coping with this crisis. A quarter of the population has fallen into debt trying to feed their families. Mothers are taking their children out of school to beg on the streets to get money to survive. Donors are focused on politics and security, but 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,” said Lawrence.

As the people of Yemen search for safety as U.S. drones target "extremists," the country's humanitarian crisis has left millions hungry and nearly 100,000 displaced.

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Oxfam: Yemen on brink of hunger catastrophe aid agencies warn

Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food crisis, seven aid agencies said today (23 May 2012) with 10 million people – 44 percent of the population – without enough food to eat. The aid agencies warned that malnutrition rates recorded by the UN in some parts of the country were alarming, with one in three children severely malnourished.

Ministers from the UK, Saudi Arabia and other countries are set to meet at the Friends of Yemen conference in Riyadh today. The agencies - CARE, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Save the Children – called on those attending the meeting to scale up efforts to tackle the crisis. The UN humanitarian appeal for the country is just 43 percent funded – a $262 million shortfall.

Penny Lawrence, Oxfam’s International Director, who is visiting Yemen, said:

“Yemeni families are at the brink and have exhausted their ways of coping with this crisis. A quarter of the population has fallen into debt trying to feed their families. Mothers are taking their children out of school to beg on the streets to get money to survive. Donors are focused on politics and security, but 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.”

Yemen’s political crisis last year increased hunger in the country as food and fuel prices surged. Hunger has doubled since 2009. A quarter of the hungry – some 5 million people – are in need of urgent emergency aid. In Hodeidah and Hajjah, child malnutrition rates are double the emergency level. The UN estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life threatening levels of malnutrition.

Conflict in the north and south the country is also exacerbating the crisis. Over the last two months, nearly 95,000 people have been forced to leave their homes as a result of conflicts, bringing the number of people displaced in the country to close to half a million.

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The Guardian: Yemen says US drone strikes have killed 11 al-Qaida militants in two days

Yemeni officials have reported more frequent American drone strikes since Yemen's new president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, took power in February vowing to ramp up the fight against al-Qaida militants.

The Pentagon recently sent American military trainers to Yemen, and Washington has spent hundreds of millions of dollars assisting the impoverished Arab nation against al-Qaida and other extremist groups in the country.

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Glenn Greenwald: Obama’s new free speech threat

There seems to be little question that the Obama administration is devoted to imposing dictatorial order on Yemen through the use of force and liberty abridgment. As [Jeremy] Scahill previously reported, Obama has played a direct personal role in the ongoing imprisonment of a Yemeni journalist who committed the crime of documenting the large number of civilian deaths from a U.S. cluster bomb attack on his country as well as exposing the joint lies of the Yemeni and U.S. Government. The latest U.S. drone strike in Yemen yesterday, even according to Yemeni officials, killed more civilians than alleged “militants.”  The bombing campaign in Yemen now increasingly resembles the one conducted in Pakistan, though Yemen saw more drone strikes this month than any previous month in Pakistan. AP reported yesterday that there are now U.S. troops on the ground aiding Yemeni soldiers in their fights against alleged AQAP members.

What’s most amazing about all of this is how covert it is...

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