By Angus McDowall
RIYADH (Reuters) - International donors pledged $6.4 billion in aid to Yemen on Tuesday, meeting the state's immediate need for financial support as it struggles towards becoming a democracy against the backdrop of a humanitarian and security crisis.
The poorest Arab country was driven to the brink of bankruptcy by a year-long uprising that in February pushed long-time president Ali Abdullah Saleh from power and allowed al Qaeda to build its presence in lawless tribal regions.
"More than 10 million Yemenis sleep and wake up in the morning without (knowing if) they will have food for the day," said Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. resident coordinator for Yemen, adding that 54 percent of Yemenis live under the poverty line.
Yemeni officials had earlier said they needed $4.7 billion in aid by the end of a formal transition period in February 2014, as the country attempts to balance a massive gap in its budget and rebuild its economy.
Yemen, which is also facing insurgencies from Islamist militants and secessionists in the south, and a conflict with a Zaidi Shi'ite group in the north, elected an interim government in February with a mandate to govern for two years.
Western delegates to the donor conference said they were satisfied with the amount of aid pledged, which they thought likely to be increased at a follow-up meeting in New York during the U.N. General Assembly this month.
"The total number amounts to $6.396 billion, which will adequately ... fund the short term as well as significant portions of the long term," Inger Andersen, vice president for Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank, told the donor meeting.
More than half the aid pledged on Tuesday, $3.25 billion, had already been promised by Saudi Arabia at a meeting in May.
That figure includes a $1 billion loan that was paid into Yemen's central bank on Tuesday and comes with a four-year grace period, Yemeni Deputy Finance Minister Jalal Omar Yaqoub said.
Another $1.75 billion of the Saudi aid will come in the form of export credit, Yaqoub said, adding that the world's top oil exporter has already given Yemen over $2.2 billion in oil and fuel products this year.
"We require assistance in all forms, registry support in cash and also contributions to the development program," Yemen's Foreign Minister Abubakr al-Qirbi, told Reuters.
The United States, which wants to prevent instability in Yemen from spreading in the oil-rich region, said it would provide $345 million in security, humanitarian and development assistance this year, over double last year's aid.
According to a handout provided by the World Bank, the United States will give another $250 million in each of 2013 and 2014.
Britain is to provide a grant of 196 million pounds ($312 million) and the World Bank promised a grant of $400 million on top of $700 million in aid it has already pledged.
Inger Andersen, the World Bank vice president for Middle East and North Africa, said Yemen needed financial support of $11.9 billion in the short and medium term, of which $4.7 billion was required within 18 months.
A handout from Yemen's Planning and International Cooperation Ministry broke down the immediate costs, required by 2014, saying $300 million was needed to support the political transition, $445 million for security, $3.5 billion for humanitarian needs, and $470 million for economic stabilization.
Yemen and donor countries have set up a mutual accountability framework, both to ensure that aid is properly spent, and that countries deliver on their pledges.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
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