The United Nations has said it hopes to raise $ 3.85 billion to avert a large-scale famine in Yemen, warning that life in the war-torn country is unbearable, with children enduring a “special kind of” hell”.
More than 100 governments and donors will participate in a virtual donors’ conference on Monday – co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland – as Houthi rebels in Yemen try to seize the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s last Nordic stronghold , Marib.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions pushed to the brink of starvation since a Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in March 2015 to support Hadi’s internationally recognized government, which had been overthrown by the Houthis.
Two-thirds of the people in Yemen have almost nothing to eat.
That’s over 20 million people.
– ICRC (@ICRC) March 1, 2021
But with aid funding declining in 2020 amid the coronavirus recession, leading to the shutdown of many humanitarian programs, the situation in the country has become even worse.
The UN, which has described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and its partners received $ 1.9 billion last year – about half of what was needed.
He called on Monday for “immediate funding” to support 16 million people in Yemen, where about two-thirds of the population needs some form of aid to survive.
“For most people, life in Yemen is now unbearable. Childhood in Yemen is a special hell. This war engulfs a whole generation of Yemenis, ”said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“We need to end it now and start dealing with its enormous consequences immediately. Now is not the time to take a step back from Yemen, ”he said in a statement.
The United Arab Emirates, which was part of the Saudi-led military coalition until 2019, pledged $ 230 million on Friday.
According to the latest UN data, more than 16 million Yemenis – about half of the 29 million population – will face hunger this year, and nearly 50,000 are already starving in conditions bordering on starvation .
Conflict, poverty and COVID-19 are pushing Yemen to the brink of famine, but funding is far too insufficient.
– UNICEF (@UNICEF) March 1, 2021
He warned that 400,000 Yemeni children under the age of five could die of acute malnutrition.
The UN said in September that critical aid had been cut in 300 health centers across Yemen due to lack of funding, with more than a third of its major humanitarian programs in the country either cut or completely. closed.
The conference comes amid US efforts to bring the conflict in Yemen back to diplomacy after Washington removed Yemen’s Houthi rebels from a “terror” list and ended its support for the devastating military offensive led by Saudi Arabia in the poorest country in the Middle East.
Former US President Donald Trump placed the Houthis, who have been fighting the Saudi-led military coalition since 2015, on the “terrorism” list during his last days in power.
In recent weeks, Houthi fighters have stepped up their campaign to capture the Saudi-backed government stronghold, Marib, sparking intense airstrikes from the Saudi-led coalition.
The UN has warned of a potential humanitarian catastrophe if the struggle for Marib continues, saying it has put “millions of civilians at risk.”
Until the beginning of last year, life in Marib was relatively peaceful despite the civil war, and it attracted many people from more volatile areas.
But as the front lines change, there is a new peril for civilians, including hundreds of thousands of people sheltering in camps in the surrounding desert.
“We are at a crossroads with Yemen,” said Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs.
“We can choose the path of peace or let the Yemenis sink into the world’s worst famine in decades.”