Students gather in front of a window to get breakfast, which is distributed free of charge at a school in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 19, 2019.
Students gather in front of a window to get breakfast, which is distributed free of charge at a school in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 19, 2019.

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A high-level pledging conference for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen this week will seek international support for 19 million people who are suffering from years of conflict and deprivation.  

In December, the U.N. asked for a record $4.2 billion for Yemen, the largest single country appeal ever launched.  By any measure, the situation in Yemen is catastrophic.  The United Nations calls it the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The U.N. human rights office reports nearly 18,200 civilians have been killed and injured since the beginning of the civil conflict between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels in March 2015.  It says airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are responsible for two-thirds of these casualties.

The United Nations reports about 80 percent of the population, 24 million people, need humanitarian assistance and protection.  Jens Laerke is Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.  He tells VOA the suffering of the civilian population has reached a scale not seen in living memory.

"It has really been a horrific year for millions and millions of people in Yemen who are literally balancing on the edge of starvation and, indeed, famine," said Laerke. "And they need massive amounts of other kinds of aid in the health sector, water and sanitation, education for their children and so on and so forth."  

FILE - Men deliver aid donations from donors in As
Men deliver aid donations from donors in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen, Sept. 23, 2018. The United Nations and independent donors are rushing food to this desperate corner of northern Yemen where starving villagers were found to be living off leaves.

The World Food Program reports it plans to help 12 million people a month in 2019.  This is a 50 percent increase over last year's goal.   WFP says it needs $1.5 billion or nearly one third of the U.N. appeal to feed all these people.

While U.N. and private aid agencies are always short of cash, they still have managed to accomplish much.  For example, they have reduced the number of new cholera cases in Yemen from a historic high of one million to 370,000 last year.

Tens of thousands of children have died from malnutrition-related causes.  But the U.N. Children's Fund, World Health Organization and partners have saved the lives of thousands of starving children through special nutrition programs.

U.N. Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres will convene the pledging conference, which is co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland.

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