A girl carries a canister of cooking oil she received from the local charity Mona Relief at a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen March 1, 2021.
A girl carries a canister of cooking oil she received from the local charity Mona Relief at a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen March 1, 2021.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A U.N. pledging conference is seeking $3.85 billion to provide life-saving assistance to 16 million people living on the edge of survival in conflict-ridden Yemen.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said there is no time to lose. He says famine is bearing down on Yemen. He said 16 million people are expected to go hungry this year, noting nearly 50,000 Yemenis already are starving to death in famine-like conditions.

He said the brunt of this humanitarian crisis, currently the world’s worst, is being borne by the children.

“Childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell. Yemeni children are starving. This year, nearly half of all children under five in Yemen are set to suffer from acute malnutrition. The symptoms include wasting, depression and tiredness. 400,000 of those children face severe acute malnutrition and could die without urgent treatment,” he said.

Guterres said starving children are very vulnerable to preventable disease. Every day, he said, Yemeni children are killed or maimed by the conflict.

Ahmed Abdo Salem, a 2-year-old Yemeni child displaced by conflict and suffering from malnutrition (weighing only five kilos), is measured at a health clinic in the war-ravaged western Hodeida province,  Yemen, Feb. 15, 2021.

Since the war began in 2014, more than 18,000 civilians have been killed. Last year, the U.N. reports more than 2,000 civilians have been killed or maimed.  

Guterres warns the war is swallowing up a whole generation of Yemenis. He said it has to stop. 

In the meantime, he notes two out of every three people in Yemen need food aid, healthcare or other lifesaving support. These dire needs, he says are coming at a time when international support for these desperate people has fallen to a new low. 

He said only $1.9 billion, just half of what is needed was received last year. And that amount is half of what was received the year before. He said reducing aid is a death sentence for entire families.

“This is not the moment to step back from Yemen. We must equal and surpass the levels of funding we had in 2018…I implore all donors to fund our appeal generously to stop famine engulfing the country. Every dollar counts,” said Guterres.

The United States heard the Secretary-General’s plea. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was the first to step up with a pledge.

“Today, I am pleased to announce nearly $191 million in additional humanitarian assistance from the United States, bringing our fiscal year 2021 funding up to more than $350 million. In total, the United States has provided more than $3.4 billion in aid to the Yemeni people since the crisis began six years ago,” he said.

Blinken appealed to other nations to give generously, especially those in the region. He said it was crucial to act quickly because the economic crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic were making the humanitarian crisis even worse.
 

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