EU boosts aid to Yemen to combat worsening food crisis

BRUSSELS Mon May 21, 2012 11:23am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union said on Monday it would provide an extra five million euros in humanitarian aid to Yemen this year, to help combat a food crisis which it said threatens to further destabilize the conflict-torn country.

Last year's uprising against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and ongoing fighting between security forces and al Qaeda-linked militants has paralyzed Yemen's economy, leaving people facing acute shortages of food, water, fuel and electricity.

"The crisis in Yemen has gone from bad to desperate," EU humanitarian aid chief Kristalina Georgieva said in a statement.

"Yemeni people desperately need international support to rebuild their lives and their country. We cannot fail them. Ignoring this would bear tremendous risks for the region and the world."

The European Commission said the extra funds would raise the amount donated by the EU in 2012 to 25 million euros ($32 million), with the sums used to improve access to clean water, support feeding programs and provide cash grants to 200,000 people.

Aid from the EU is channeled through non-governmental and international organizations such as the United Nations World Food Programme, the Red Cross and UNICEF.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Arabian Peninsula. More than 40 percent of its 22.4 million inhabitants live on less than $2 a day, and 5 million are considered "extremely food insecure", data from the United Nations Development Programme showed.

In addition to the 500,000 Yemeni citizens displaced by conflict, the Commission said the humanitarian crisis was compounded by more than 250,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa, many of whom have fled famine and fighting in Somalia and Ethiopia.

The Commission has given more than 73 million euros in assistance to Yemen since 1994.

(Reporting by Stephanie Ebbs, editing by Charlie Dunmore)

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