UN food agency cuts Yemen aid as funds dry up

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The UN food aid agency warned on Tuesday that crucial supplies for Yemen were running out because of a lack of international funding, as it cut remaining food rations by half.

World Food Programme spokeswoman Emilia Casella said 3.4 million Yemenis needed food aid.

But just 476,000 were receiving help after the agency received about a quarter of the 103 million dollars (78.4 million euros) needed to keep food aid going this year.

"Due to lack of funding, the WFP has been forced to cut rations by half," Casella told journalists.

"By August WFP in Yemen will have run out of food almost completely," she added.

The agency estimates that one third of Yemenis, about 7.2 million people, live in chronic hunger, while one tenth of children suffer from acute malnutrition.

"Many families essentially eat only bread and tea, perhaps vegetables a couple of times a week," said Casella.

Remaining WFP food deliveries were being cut this month to 1,050 calories per person a day, with a focus on the needs of some 270,000 people who were displaced by the conflict in northern Yemen.

"This is a very serious and dramatic situation for internally displaced people," commented Andre Mahecic, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Most of the funding so far has come from Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Italy, Norway, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Yemen urged international donors at a meeting in March to honour broader development aid they pledged in 2006 to combat poverty and unemployment.

Sanaa says it needs the aid to head off unrest and the threat represented by Al-Qaeda's presence in the country, after fighting a war with Shiite rebels in the north and facing separatist demands in the country's south.

© 2010 AFP

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