How to foster safety and prosperity in Yemen

Thursday, November 11, 2010; 7:16 PM

The Nov. 2 editorial "The threat in Yemen" stated that "a more stable, secure and prosperous Yemen" is the only defense against the increasing threat of terrorism from groups using the country as a base. As UNICEF's representative in Yemen, I have seen the life-threatening struggle that is daily life for many ordinary Yemeni families. Children represent more than half of the Yemeni population. They need our help.

Yemen is the least developed country in the Middle East. It has a growing population, widespread poverty and unemployment, high illiteracy rates and chronic malnutrition. Conflicts in the north and south are fast eroding small development gains made over the last decades. Currently, 15 percent of Yemen's children are suffering from acute malnutrition. And in the northern conflict areas, where the volatile security situation limits our ability to deliver basic relief items, that statistic rises to 45 percent. Nationwide only 64 percent of girls and 75 percent of boys of school-going age are enrolled in primary school.

Every child deserves access to health care and nutrition, safe drinking water, appropriate sanitation and hygiene, educational opportunities and protection from violence and exploitation. But funding for Yemen's children is in short supply. They are the most vulnerable of Yemen's population and the most in need of international assistance - and of a re-prioritization of Yemen's own government spending.

While global attention is focused on the instability in Yemen, I hope that people will understand that investing in a better future for the country's poor children is a critical and strategic way to contribute to a safer, more stable and more prosperous future for everyone.

Geert Cappelaere, Sanaa, Yemen

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