Taranaki Daily News
Aid set to be slashed as big famine looms
Aid organisations working in Yemen say their programmes will be severely cut after a United Nations appeal for donations to alleviate the world’s worst humanitarian disaster fell well short of its goal.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had appealed for US$3.85 billion (NZ$5.28b) this year to address the impoverished country’s dire needs. But despite repeated warnings that a large-scale famine is looming, the amount raised is only about US$1.7b (NZ$2.33b).
Yemen has been caught in a grinding war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels descended from their northern enclave and took over the capital, Sanaa. In 2015, a United Statesbacked, Saudi-led coalition began a destructive air campaign to dislodge the Houthis, while imposing a land, sea and air embargo on Yemen.
The outcome of the appeal for aid, which was less than the UN received last year, was no surprise, given the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating consequences for economies around the globe, and corruption allegations affecting Yemen aid operations.
Aid workers had painted a grim picture for Yemen in 2021, since humanitarian programmes were scaled down last year amid the pandemic.
In 2020, about 9 million people received only half of the amount of food assistance they received in 2019, said Anna Pantelia, a spokeswoman for Save the Children.
Olivia Headon, a spokeswoman for the UN migration agency in Yemen, said the shortfall would translate into sick people without health care, children continuing to become malnourished, and millions going without enough to eat for prolonged periods.
David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said the lack of funding would prevent aid agencies from delivering life-saving assistance. ‘‘People will die,’’ he said.
Sultana Begum, advocacy manager with the Norwegian Refugee Council in Yemen, said the number of people receiving aid had already dwindled in recent months to just over 10 million a month, from at least 14 million in previous years.
‘‘The shortfall in the humanitarian aid will only have more pain,’’ she said.
Guterres warned that ‘‘cutting aid is a death sentence’’. He called for countries to reconsider their positions and help ‘‘stave off the worst famine the world has seen in decades’’.
The UN has warned that more than 16 million people in Yemen will go hungry this year, with half a million already living in famine-like conditions.
The conflict has killed some 130,000 people and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. Half of Yemen’s health care facilities are shuttered or destroyed, and 4 million Yemenis have been driven from their homes. The pandemic, cholera epidemics and severe malnutrition among children have led to thousands of additional deaths.
Aid agencies depend on the Houthis, who rule the capital and much of the country’s north, to deliver aid. The rebels have been implicated in stealing aid and using aid access to extort concessions and money.