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Press Conference by Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg on Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen, Philippines

Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York

2 December 2011

Extremely concerned about the millions in Yemen and the Philippines who were currently facing a severe and worsening humanitarian crisis, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Catherine Bragg briefed correspondents at Headquarters today on her recent missions to those countries.

Returning from her four-day mission in Yemen, Ms. Bragg said that chronic deprivation was being made worse by the breakdown of essential services as a result of the political turmoil and violence. A third of the population there did not know where their next meal was coming from, and the scarcity of resources and influx of migrants from the Horn of Africa was placing strain on host communities.

She said the fighting in Abyan, Yemen had displaced tens of thousands, most of whom were living with host families or in school buildings in Aden and neighbouring areas, and it was unlikely that they would be able to return home in the near future.

Having spoken with local authorities about the need to find solutions, she underlined that humanitarian workers must have access to all areas where civilians had been displaced. Many were unable to return to their homes because of threats from armed groups.

While malnutrition was rampant, deaths among children remained low, thanks to the efforts of communities and aid organizations. Still, supplementary feeding centres were expressing concern that the conditions of their patients had not improved in the past two years. In 2012, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and its partners planned to expand humanitarian programmes to reach as many as possible of the 3.8 million people across Yemen who required aid.

To cover that, she said that humanitarian actors were requesting $452 million for 2012, to cover food and nutrition, water, sanitation and health, and to make sure that the most vulnerable people in the most vulnerable communities got the help they needed. Conflict would likely continue, with devastating effects on civilians, and the humanitarian situation was expected to deteriorate over the next year. The international community could not risk allowing the situation to become another catastrophe in a region already enduring so many hardships.

In the Philippines, she had visited Mindanao, where communities were coping with a protracted humanitarian crisis brought on by years of violence and recurring natural disasters. Although the number of displaced persons had fallen since 2008, many still needed help. The crisis of displacement made it very difficult for people to recover and get on with their lives. However, she had been pleased to learn that there was close collaboration between aid organizations and the Government there.

Again, she stressed that humanitarian agencies needed unhindered access in order to undertake essential humanitarian assessments, especially if newly displaced people were in insecure areas. For 2012, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs would launch an action plan to support the return to normalcy, particularly in terms of livelihood opportunities, and strengthen the capacity of the local Government in that regard.

Responding to a question about the political situation in Yemen, she said that her purpose had been to review the humanitarian situation, and not political developments, as that was not an aspect of the mission.

Asked why it had taken nearly 10 months, since the start of the crisis, for an evaluation mission to take place, she said that there had been a humanitarian presence from the beginning, but only recently the security situation had made it possible for her mission to take place.

Asked about deaths from malnutrition among children, she said that while the rate of malnutrition was in an emergency phase at 18 per cent, the tribal culture of Yemen had prevented the situation from tipping over from an emergency situation into higher mortality rates.

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For information media • not an official record

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