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Yemen aid: UN seeks $4.3 billion, but gets $1.2 billion

February 27, 2023

The UN solicited funds from wealthy nations to run aid operations in the war-ravaged country. With funding down and prices soaring, operations are reduced and millions are going hungry.

Men carry carry sacks of food on their shoulders as they walk through the desert
Food aid has been slashed by half or more to millions of Yemenis put in harms way by eight years of civil war due to a lack of funds and rising pricesImage: Khaled Ziad/AFP

The United Nations (UN) asked member states on Monday to contribute $4.3 billion (€4 billion) in humanitarian assistance funding at its seventh annual Yemen donor conference in Geneva, co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.

Ultimately, more than 30 countries — the United States, Germany and the European Union top three among them — pledged to provide $1.2 billion in aid, falling far short of the target.

The money is needed to fund food and health services in the war-torn Arab Peninsula country. The UN says more than 21 million people — two-thirds of the country's population — are in need of humanitarian assistance.

UN says aid essential 'to change Yemen's trajectory'

"Together, let us at long last turn the tide of suffering. Let us give hope to the people of Yemen," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres opening Monday's gathering. "We have a real opportunity this year to change Yemen's trajectory and move towards peace."

The UN, which says its total global funding needs for 2023 are $51 billion, acknowledged the difficult world economic situation in soliciting donations but underscored the urgency for those suffering.

In a statement the UN said: "Record global humanitarian needs are stretching donor support like never before, but without sustained support for the aid operation in Yemen, the lives of millions of Yemenis will hang in the balance."

Martin Griffiths, the UN's humanitarian chief, said it was "rather sad" that this year's was the seventh Yemen donor conference. "The fact is the Yemeni crisis has gone on far too long, punishing millions of innocent people who didn't want it in the first place, and deserve so much better."

Last year, donors contributed $2.2 billion in funding. The UN had requested $4.27 billion.

US and Germany call for end to humanitarian crisis

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken appeared via video at the donor conference to announce that Washington would be contributing $444 million in assistance funding.

In all, said Blinken, the US has contributed $5.4 billion since the start of the conflict. He called for an end to the civil war, saying, "As long as the fighting goes on, so will the suffering."

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, who announced Berlin would contribute €120 million, criticized the world's willingness to close its eyes to the ongoing "humanitarian catastrophe."

Yet as dire as the situation in Yemen is, the fact that a UN brokered peace treaty from last April has largely held despite expiring in early October represents "a measure of hope for the future," said UN boss Guterres.

"After years of death, displacement, destruction, starvation and suffering, the truce delivered real dividends for people," he added.

Yemen faces devastation after years of conflict

The conflict, which has been raging for eight years, is between a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition and the Houthis backed by Iran. The ethnic Houthis invaded Yemen's capital Sanaa and overthrew the country's internationally recognized government in late 2014.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since then and the conflict has devastated the country's infrastructure and economy.

Parallel to UN efforts to bring an end to the conflict by establishing a permanent ceasefire and initiating inclusive political negotiations, Saudi Arabia and the Houthis have been holding direct talks facilitated by Oman.

Despite the fact that the fighting has largely stopped, Yemen remains one of the world's worst humanitarian disasters.

The World Health Organization (WHO), which said it needs $392 million to provide 12.9 million people with health assistance, warned that Yemen is facing a total collapse of its health system.

The UN World Food Program (WFP), which is seeking $2.9 billion to feed 13 million people, has been forced to drastically scale back operations in Yemen due lack of funds, forcing it to give millions of people in desperate need merely a fraction of what they had been able to previously. 

The WFP says it has still made progress, helping ever more Yemenis out of famine-like conditions, but representatives warn such strides could be easily reversed, citing reports of increasing food insecurity.

Speaking at Monday's conference, Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed pointed to the crux of the problem, "Ending the humanitarian crisis starts with ending the war."

js/rs (AFP, Reuters)

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