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$4.3 billion needed to help over 17 million people across Yemen

Young girls in a displaced persons camp near Marib city in Yemen.
© WFP/Annabel Symington
Young girls in a displaced persons camp near Marib city in Yemen.

$4.3 billion needed to help over 17 million people across Yemen

Humanitarian Aid

A “funding crunch” has put millions of people in Yemen at risk of catastrophe, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday, in support of an urgent appeal to donors to fund the humanitarian response in the war-torn country.

After more than seven years of war, “tens of thousands of civilians – including at least 10,000 children – have died”, Mr. Guterres said, adding that “for millions of internally displaced people, life is a daily struggle for survival”.

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Today, over 23 million Yemenis face hunger, disease, and other life-threatening risks as the country’s basic services and economy are collapsing, according to the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA).

Rations cut back

To make matters worse, a lack of funding has forced the UN and partners to “scale back or close” around two-thirds of life-saving programmes, Mr. Guterres said.

“Food rations have just been reduced for eight million people, with devastating consequences. In the coming weeks, nearly four million people in major cities may now lose access to safe drinking water.

“And one million women and girls may lose access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services – a death sentence in a country where one woman dies every two hours from complications during pregnancy and childbirth due to preventable causes.”

Famine numbers up fivefold

The number of vulnerable people has risen by 13 per cent since last year, and some 161,000 people are likely to experience famine over the second half of this year, a fivefold increase from the current figure.

Addressing journalists from New York, UN humanitarian relief chief Martin Griffiths underlined that “almost three quarters of the population will depend on humanitarian assistance and protection in 2022”, which makes Yemen's emergency among the worst in the world.

Objective: aid for 17.2 million people

Nearly $4.3 billion is required in 2022 to reach 17.2 million people and reverse the downward spiral, Mr. Griffiths continued.

The civil war in Yemen is the main driver of hunger and the crisis is likely to deteriorate due to the conflict in Ukraine. Around 90 per cent of Yemen’s food is imported, with one third of its wheat imports coming from Russia and Ukraine.

“Ending the war in Ukraine now, is of greatest importance,” insisted Mr. Griffiths, “because as it goes on, it has secondary and tertiary impacts upon the new harvest, the new planting season and so forth. Ukraine is a breadbasket.”

Food prices are already “skyrocketing” and restrictions on supply are expected, he continued. “This comes on top of the fact that the food prices nearly doubled anyway last year.”

Commercial sense

Ensuring that commercial imports can reach Yemen’s ports is an additional challenge for the humanitarian agency. We need to allow these ships to flow in and out of those ports,” Mr. Griffiths said, noting that checks for weapons should take place in line with international embargoes – “but not stopped when they have food, fuel or other things that are needed for the welfare of the people”.

The poorest Arab nation was plunged into civil war in 2014, when Houthi rebels, aligned with Iran (formally known as Ansar Allah) took control of its capital, Sana’a, and part of the north, forcing the internationally-recognized Government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

The war has deteriorated into a stalemate, although a sharp escalation across the country has claimed an increasing number of civilian lives since the start of the year.

Swiss appeal

“The needs are humanitarian, but economic as well as political,” said Manuel Bessler, head of Switzerland’s aid department, co-hosting the appeal with Sweden. “It is important to see this crisis (as) a holistic crisis and to mobilize all the attention and all the support we can get.”

Funding shortages have forced two-thirds of major UN projects in Yemen to scale down or close their operations in Yemen. Earlier this year, eight million people saw their food rations cut in half, with further reductions on the way.

“We need to turn every stone to make sure that these dramatically increased needs can be met with the resources that we have available", said Carl Skau from the Swedish Ministry for foreign affairs, adding that “we need to broaden the donor base”.