Millions at risk as peace talks stall
The director of UN humanitarian operations has warned that 7.6 million people in conflict-torn Yemen face severe food shortages and are “one step” from famine.
John Ging, who just returned from Yemen, told a news conference that there has been “a shocking fall off” in support from the donor community over the last few months for the millions of Yemenis who need food, clean water and basic health care.
The UN appeal for $1.8 billion to help more than 13 million Yemenis this year is just 16 per cent funded, he said, despite Yemen being declared one of the UN’s highest-level humanitarian emergencies.
Ging urged governments facing multiple demands for assistance not to forget Yemen. He said the United States, United Kingdom, European Commission and Japan had contributed to the 2016 appeal.
The biggest change from 2015, Ging said, was the absence of a contribution from Saudi Arabia, which donated $245 million to last year’s UN appeal. He said the donor base for Yemen must be expanded, saying Saudi Arabia, the GCC states and many other countries were being contacted. He stressed that any contributions from parties to a conflict can’t have strings attached.
A major focus of the UN humanitarian summit in Istanbul next week is humanitarian financing, he said, because UN appeals that cover minimum needs are less than 50 per cent funded and new ways must be found to provide life-saving support.
In the Yemen conflict, a Saudi-led coalition supporting the internationally recognised government is battling Shia rebels known as Houthis and their allies. The Houthis have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since September 2014. Ging said over 6,000 people have been killed, including 930 children.
On Tuesday, Yemen’s Foreign Minister, AbdulMalik Al Mekhlafi, announced the suspension of peace talks held in Kuwait after weeks of no progress, saying the rebels refuse to accept the legitimacy of the country’s internationally recognised president.
Ging said more than 10 million Yemenis need basic health care and over 7.6 million “are severely food insecure” - which “on the international index of food insecurity is one step below the level of famine”.
“So it’s a very fragile situation, and it’s a huge number of people that are in that status,” he said.
“The nutrition situation in Yemen is also very acute.”