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UN: International donors must act now to prevent a widespread famine in Yemen

01 Mar 2021

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Al Fajr School, Al Turbah, Taiz, Yemen, 14 Decemer 2020. Fazal and Fatima have lived in this tent with their children for the past five years, having been displaced from Taiz city in 2015. © Giles Clarke for OCHA

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres today convened a virtual high-level pledging event, co-hosted by the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland, to call for immediate funding to prevent a large-scale famine in Yemen.

Two thirds of Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to survive. More than 16 million people will face hunger this year, and nearly 50,000 Yemenis are already starving to death in famine-like conditions. This year, nearly half of Yemen’s children under age 5 will suffer from acute malnutrition, including 400,000 who could die without urgent treatment.

Funding for the aid operation is running out fast. Today, the UN called for US$3.85 billion to help 16 million Yemenis in desperate need this year.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said: “For most people, life in Yemen is now unbearable. Childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell. This war is swallowing up a whole generation of Yemenis. We must end it now and start dealing with its enormous consequences immediately. This is not the moment to step back from Yemen.”

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Mark Lowcock, said: “We are at a crossroads with Yemen. We can choose the path to peace or let Yemenis slide into the world’s worst famine for decades. An adequately funded aid operation will prevent the spread of famine and create the conditions for lasting peace. If you’re not feeding the people, you’re feeding the war.”

In 2020, funding for the aid operation in Yemen dropped dramatically. The UN and NGO partners received $1.9 billion, or around half of what they received the year before and half of what was needed. Aid had to be cut as a result, and people who need help are not getting it.

This year, aid agencies aim to help more than 16 million people. Given the alarming data on famine risk, malnutrition, COVID-19, cholera and other threats, donors are urged to make funds available without delay.

More than 100 Governments and other donors, international humanitarian organizations and aid officials participated in today’s pledging event.

At the conclusion of the event, the UN Secretary-General noted that the outcome of the event was “disappointing”.

Pledges announced total approximately $1.7 billion, which is less than what was received for the humanitarian response plan in 2020, and $1 billion less than what was pledged at the conference held in 2019.

“Millions of Yemeni children, women and men desperately need aid to live. Cutting aid is a death sentence. The best that can be said about today is that it represents a down payment. I thank those who did pledge generously, and I ask others to consider again what they can do to help stave off the worst famine the world has seen in decades,” Mr. Guterres said.

Information on financial announcements made at the event is available here.