Yemen faces famine, aid agencies say

May 23, 2012 at 5:15 PM

SANAA, Yemen, May 23 (UPI) -- Aid agencies Wednesday urged those attending the Friends of Yemen Conference in Saudi Arabia to scale up efforts to tackle the Yemen's food crisis.

The agencies -- CARE, International Medical Corps, Islamic Relief, Merlin, Mercy Corps, Oxfam and Save the Children -- warned at an aid conference in Yemen 44 percent of Yemen's population is at risk of famine with a third of children in some parts of the country severely malnourished.

The U.N. humanitarian appeal for the country is just 43 percent funded -- a $262 million shortfall, officials in Sanaa said.

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."

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