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UN Aid Drive to Avert Yemen Catastrophe Falls Far Short

The United Nations voiced disappointment after a pledging conference Wednesday raised less than a third of the money it said was needed to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in war-torn Yemen.

The UN was seeking $4.27 billion (3.87 billion euros) to help 17.3 million people — but raised only $1.3 billion, with some major hoped-for donors going missing.

The UN considers war-torn Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that it must not be overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis.

Nonetheless, the money raised fell far short of what was needed, leaving organizers considering a second conference later this year.

“We heard 36 donors pledge nearly $1.3 billion for the humanitarian response,” the UN’s humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in closing the conference in Geneva.

“But let us be under no illusions: we hoped for more. And it is a disappointment that we weren’t able, as yet, to get pledges from some we thought we might hear from.”

“We will be working hard to make sure that… we do stand in solidarity with the people of Yemen.”

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

‘Catastrophe’ Risk: UN Chief

Yemen has been wracked by a devastating war since 2014, pitting the Iran-backed Houthi 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.

“Yemen may have receded from the headlines, but the human suffering has not relented,” Guterres said, opening the conference.

“A funding crunch risks catastrophe.”

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

“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.

Russia’s war in Ukraine is likely to have a negative impact on Yemen, given that the country depends almost entirely on food imports, with nearly a third of its wheat supplies coming from Ukraine.

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,” he said.

‘Absolutely Devastating’

The UN’s World Food Programme said the number of people needing food assistance had increased by 1.2 million over the past year to 17.4 million — and is forecast to reach 19 million people in the second half of 2022.

WFP executive director David Beasley told the conference: “It’s absolutely devastating, and now we’re out of money. We need a billion dollars for the next six months and we have just a little over 10 percent of that.”

The number of people “knocking on famine’s door” will rise from over five million to over seven million, he said.

“Don’t make us make decisions between taking food from the children in Ukraine to the children in Yemen,” he pleaded.

The conference was co-hosted by Switzerland and Sweden.

Manuel Bessler, Switzerland’s humanitarian aid chief, said the total raised “does not match the tremendous needs we have on the ground.”

“We are very curious to hear from donors from the Gulf, where they’re standing, and what their intention is to address this funding crisis,” he added.

Many speakers at the conference said progress could only be made if there was peace.

Gulf Arab countries are seeking to host talks between Yemen’s warring parties, including the Houthi rebels, in Riyadh at the end of the month.

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