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Yemen: Funding shortage forces humanitarians to use food-security funds to fight unprecedented cholera outbreak

12 Jul 2017


Three-year-old Ahmed and his 6-year-old sister, Khaoula, survived an air strike on their house in Al Mutun (Al Jaouf) on 14 April 2017. Their parents, Mohsin and Dhiba, died trying to protect them. Credit: Giles Clarke for UNOCHA

Since 27 April, the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has risen to 320,199, including 1,742 associated deaths. But despite the scale and unprecedented nature of this crisis, funding remains dangerously low.

“This cholera scandal is entirely man-made by the conflicting parties and those beyond Yemen’s borders, who are leading, supplying, fighting and perpetuating the fear and fighting,” said Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien today, in his address to the Security Council. He added that the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan is only 33 per cent funded (US$688 million of the required $2.1 billion), which has forced humanitarians to use resources allocated for food security or malnutrition to combat the unprecedented cholera outbreak.

This is unacceptable in a country where 7 million people are on the cusp of famine, vulnerable to disease and, ultimately, at risk of a slow and painful death. These people include 2.3 million malnourished children under age 5, including 500,000 who are severely malnourished.

The humanitarian situation in Yemen is further exacerbated by critical stoppages of hospitals and a lack of doctors and nurses. The country’s health system has essentially collapsed, with an estimated 55 per cent of facilities closed due to damage, destruction or a lack of funds. Some 30,000 health-care workers have not been paid in nearly a year, and no funding has been provided to keep basic infrastructure operating, such as hospitals, and water-pumping and sanitation stations.

Funding for this appeal is now desperately needed to scale up the response and ensure that life-saving aid reaches people in need.

The cholera response alone requires an additional $250 million, of which only $47 million has been received so far. The UN is urging donors who pledged funds at the Geneva Conference in April to turn their pledges into cash. The UN and humanitarian partners also ask to be allowed to use funds flexibly to tackle this triple emergency of conflict, cholera and famine.