Yemen facing catastrophe if overlooked, UN warns

A malnourished child receives treatment at a malnutrition center in Yemen's third city of Taez, on March 6, 2022. (Photo: AFP)
GENEVA, Switzerland — Yemen is teetering on the brink of catastrophe and must not be overshadowed by Ukraine, the UN insisted Wednesday, urging donors to rescue the country from ruination.اضافة اعلان

"Yemen may have receded from the headlines, but the human suffering has not relented," UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said as he opened a global pledging conference.

"For seven years and counting the Yemeni people have been confronting death, destruction, displacement, starvation, terror, division, and destitution on a massive scale."

The UN considers war-torn Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian disaster — but the money preventing the situation from getting worse is now running out, it warned.

"A funding crunch risks catastrophe," said Guterres.

The UN is seeking $4.27 billion to help 17.3 million people — but is facing a vast funding gap.

Guterres said the economy was in despair, millions were now facing extreme hunger and two in three Yemenis were living in extreme poverty.

"Beyond these horrendous facts and figures lies a country in ruins, its social fabric torn, its hopes for the future shattered," he said.

As funding had been drying up since late last year, aid agencies were being forced to cut back or stop food and health services, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told reporters.

"Today we hope to raise the money to replenish the food pipeline, stock up health clinics, and provide shelter to the displaced.

"And to send a message to the people in Yemen that we do not forget them," said Griffiths.

The British diplomat said Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, launched last month, would have far-reaching secondary impacts.

It will "surely harm the lives of many Yemenis", he said, given that the country depends almost entirely on food imports, with nearly a third of its wheat supplies coming from Ukraine.

Out of 31.9 million people in Yemen, 23.4 million were in need of humanitarian assistance, of which 12.9 million were in acute need, said the UN.

Yemen has been wracked by a devastating war since 2014, pitting the Iran-backed Huthi rebels against the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led military coalition.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly and indirectly in the war, and millions have been displaced.

'Teetering on the edge'

"As a matter of moral responsibility, of human decency and compassion, of international solidarity, and of life and death — we must support the people of Yemen now," said Guterres.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Washington would contribute nearly $585 million more to Yemen.

"We're faced with a multiplicity of challenges around the world and it's particularly difficult when the spotlight has moved elsewhere. That's when the real test comes," he said.

"Once again, we are meeting at what is a dire time for Yemen."

The World Food Program (WFP) said the levels of hunger could become catastrophic if the Ukraine crisis pushed up food prices.

The humanitarian situation is poised to worsen between June and December, the Food and Agriculture Organization, WFP, and the UNICEF children's agency said in a joint statement.

"Yemen's already dire hunger crisis is teetering on the edge of outright catastrophe, with 17.4 million people now in need of food assistance and a growing portion of the population coping with emergency levels of hunger," the three UN agencies warned.

WFP said the number of people needing food assistance had increased by 1.2 million over the past year — and is forecast to reach 19 million people in the second half of 2022.

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