UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday expressed his disappointment that a virtual pledging event has failed to raise sufficient funds to avert a large-scale “man-made” famine in Yemen, urging donors to reconsider their stance.
“Millions of Yemeni children, women and men desperately need aid to live,” Guterres said in a statement, adding that “cutting aid is a death sentence.”
While the UN chief was hoping to raise some $3.85 billion, the pledging event that was co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland, fell short of the $1.9 billion needed to avert famine, as it only gathered $1.67 billion in pledges.
“The best that can be said about today is that it represents a down payment,” Guterres said.
According to the UN aid chief Mark Lowcock, 16 million Yemenis, meaning more than half the population of the Arabian Peninsula country, are going hungry, while of those, 5 million are on the brink of famine, – “the worst the world will have seen for decades”, as characterized by Lowcock.
For much of its food, the war-torn country is heavily relied on imports that have been badly disrupted over the years by all warring parties. UN data have shown that almost 80% of Yemenis are in dire need of help, with 400,000 children under the age of five severely malnourished.
The coronavirus pandemic comes on top of the prolonged conflict which has plunged Yemen into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. In a bid to find a solution, the UN are trying to revive peace talks between warring parties, while the new US administration under President Joe Biden has set Yemen as a priority.