DUBAI • The United Nations and Saudi Arabia were due to host a pledging conference for war-ravaged Yemen yesterday to help raise US$2.4 billion (S$3.4 billion) as funding shortages imperil the world’s biggest relief operation.
The conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has left 80 per cent of Yemen’s population reliant on aid. The country now faces the spread of the coronavirus among an acutely malnourished people.
“Anything below US$1.6 billion and the operation will be facing catastrophic cutbacks,” UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande told Reuters prior to the conference. “We won’t be able to provide the food people need to survive, or the healthcare they need or the water or sanitation or the nutrition support which helps to keep two million malnourished children from dying.”
The UN-coordinated humanitarian plan received US$3.2 billion last year but has secured only US$474 million so far this year, aid chief Mark Lowcock said last Thursday, adding that most agencies are weeks away from being broke.
Mr Lowcock, asked about Saudi Arabia co-hosting the event, said it was a large donor and the UN would keep calling out warring parties on actions “they should not be doing”.
Saudi Arabia has already pledged US$525 million. The United States said last month it would extend US$225 million in emergency aid for food.
Some US$180 million of required funding is needed to combat the coronavirus in a country with shattered health systems and inadequate testing capabilities.
“Yemen is at a precipice. All indications point to Covid-19 spreading fast and wide across the country, overwhelming the health system,” pledge organisers said yesterday.
Yemen has been mired in violence since the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene a few months later.
Donors had cut funding to Houthi-held areas over concerns that the group is hindering aid delivery, a charge it denies.
Ms Grande said several issues had been addressed by the Houthi authorities, including waiving a 2 per cent tax on aid operations, allowing needs assessments and providing the World Food Programme with approval to start a pilot programme on a biometric registration and verification system.
Anything below US$1.6 billion and the operation will be facing catastrophic cutbacks. We won’t be able to provide the food people need to survive, or the healthcare they need or the water or sanitation or the nutrition support which helps to keep two million malnourished children from dying.
MS LISE GRANDE, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, on the bid to raise funds for aid operations in the country.