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Poverty in Yemen is region's problem


Poverty in Yemen is getting worse. An unstable political environment, lack of security and the rise in the worldwide price of food and fuel mean the country is struggling to feed its people. As the World Food Programme reported on Sunday, around half of Yemen's 25 million people go to bed hungry every night, and five million people who cannot grow food for themselves or purchase it are in urgent need of help.

How did it come to this?

After the uprising that finally ended the decades-long rule of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemenis were looking forward to better days. But a lack of clear political control - and continued jockeying for position by elements of the old Saleh regime - have created conditions of instability across the country. In a land that should be able to grow much of its own food, with the highest percentage of arable land on the Arabian Peninsula, imports are the main source of sustenance.

In time Yemen will need assistance - in the form of expertise, training and cash - to revitalise its struggling agriculture sector. For now, however, what Yemenis need most is an immediate infusion of food.

The UAE has contributed significantly to prevent a humanitarian crisis in its near abroad. Through the Khalifa Bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation, the UAE has distributed thousands of food baskets as part of a Dh500 million grant. This is in addition to Dh500 million spent during Ramadan. Other countries have also stepped in, pledging US$1.46 billion in aid last Thursday in New York.

Yet Yemen still suffers from too much attention paid to the wrong issues, namely security and the military agendas of foreign powers. This type of support merely manages Yemen's problem, rather than attacking its roots. President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi has spent a great deal of his short time in power negotiating Yemen's notoriously complex politics, and trying to weaken the grip of Mr Saleh's allies. All of this has meant a lack of focus on the economy, which is badly managed, and on political unity, which is weakening as the months pass.

Poverty on the Arabian Peninsula will eventually have knock-on effects elsewhere. Yemen's neighbours, such as the UAE, and allies, like the United States, can help by telling Yemen's government that real reform is needed, and now.

The National

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