Students participate in a morning exercise before classes which were conducted outside their school that was taken over by Shiâ€™ite Houthi rebels, who had moved armoured vehicles into the school compound, during recent fighting with government forces in Sanaa September 29, 2014. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
An escalation of political turmoil in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the world, risks aggravating an already dire food security situation, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Monday.
One in four Yemenis is undernourished and more than half of Yemenâ€™s 25 million people are â€˜food insecureâ€™, that is lacking access to sufficient food for their needs, FAO regional coordinator Ad Spijkers told a news conference in Abu Dhabi.
With a high proportion of the population living off the land and some 90 percent of Yemenâ€™s water resources being used in agriculture, people are especially vulnerable when conflicts disrupt farm production, FAO officials said.
â€œIn every effort to improve food security and nutrition you need stability and in Yemen two thirds of the population depend on agriculture,â€ said Spijkers.
â€œSo if people are displaced and they canâ€™t grow food for their own families then there is a very severe situation.â€
Compounding Yemenâ€™s plight, nearly half of its irrigation water goes to growing qat, a narcotic leaf that fetches a high price on local markets, rather than to growing staple crops. The cash-strapped government has to import 90 percent of the wheat and 100 percent of the rice it needs to feed its people.
This heavy reliance on global food markets, coupled with dwindling foreign exchange as a result of a slump in oil exports, are now both aggravating Yemenâ€™s food vulnerability, FAO said. The FAOâ€™s Yemen representative, Salah ElHaj Hassan, told Reuters by telephone on Monday that Yemenâ€™s conflicts were hampering even the most basic aid programs such as distributing agricultural inputs to farmers in rural areas.
Meanwhile, a suicide bomber linked to Al-Qaeda drove a car laden with explosives into a hospital used as a base by the Houthi movement on Sunday, killing at least 15 people, and five more died in an ambush in the south of the country.
Militants, tribal and local sources said the first attack took place in the town of Majzar in Maarib province, east of Sanaa, while local officials said the second occurred on Sunday night in the southern Al-Bayda province.
â€œDozens of dead and wounded from the rejectionist Houthis in a martyrdom operation by Ansar Al-Sharia using a booby-trapped car in Maarib,â€ the militant group, a branch of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, said in a statement on its Twitter account.
The group said the target was Al-Jafra hospital, which had been turned by the Houthis into a base for their operations in the area. Local tribesmen said at least 15 people were killed in the attack and more than 50 were wounded.
In the second attack, local officials said Al-Qaeda militants ambushed a car used by Houthi fighters, killing five of them. An Al-Qaeda statement put the Houthi death toll in the attack at six.