In Yemen, funding cuts are forcing us to triage the vulnerable
As a veteran humanitarian aid worker, I have seen some of the worst conflicts and disasters in the world. But I have rarely witnessed a situation as dire as Yemen, where two-thirds of the population needs aid. The recent pledging conference for Yemen’s humanitarian crisis was a sobering reminder of how far we are from being able to adequately support the Yemeni people, who have been brought to their knees by eight years of conflict. It also sends a signal that some lives are less valuable than others.
Baheyah Abdu comes to my mind. The 40-year-old mother of 10 has been displaced for the full eight years of this crisis, fighting for basic services in a makeshift camp in the southern city of Taiz. With prices skyrocketing, her husband’s daily wage of less than $1 now buys only bread and sometimes tomatoes for their family.
At the end of last year, funding gaps meant the little aid they received was halted, forcing her to stop sending her children to school and leaving her unable to pay for medical care. Baheyah is now left to her own devices. Like millions of other Yemenis, it is unlikely she will get any aid this year.
The numbers speak for themselves: A mere quarter of the $4.3bn needed for the humanitarian response this year has been promised and less than 5 percent has actually been provided. This means that aid organisations are being forced to triage the vulnerable in an emergency ward of despair. This is unacceptable, and we must call out the countries responsible for this deadly funding gap.
Many of the countries that have been directly or indirectly involved in this war through bombing, fighting or arms sales have promised less funding than before – and some nothing at all: Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Iran. We are also disappointed that those who willingly provided arms in this terrible war – the United States, the United Kingdom and other European nations – did not give more. In the years when the conflict they provided the tools for was causing mass casualties and ripping through the social fabric of the country, funding was relatively forthcoming. Now that the world’s interest in Yemen has dimmed, key actors in the war that caused the suffering slash funding and seem to turn their backs.
This neglect comes at a crucial moment for Yemen when the warring parties are in the midst of truce negotiations. World powers, therefore, are sending the entirely wrong message at a critical time when we all could and should be giving Yemen the final push towards an end to the conflict and long-lasting stability.We will not sit by and let them get away with this unnoticed.
Nations that were willing to provide billions to wage war are now committing Yemen’s most vulnerable to another year of suffering, another year without enough food on their plates, without the support they need to live a dignified life. This is not a problem of finite resources; it is one of political will.
My Norwegian Refugee Council colleagues in Yemen will keep reaching out to people in need and documenting the impact of the funding cuts on families terrified by the prospect of not getting aid. We will make it clear that funding cuts now are forcing us to make impossible decisions about which vulnerable children to help and which to strike off our list.
Eight years of this man-made disaster should have led us to a turning point of hope. While the fragile ceasefire has not yet been extended, the relative calm across the country helped us all believe that the end of this nightmare was near. Now we do not know if the most vulnerable will survive starvation as the funds start to dry up.Baheyah hopes her voice is heard by regional and world leaders who have seemingly abandoned Yemen. We want to let her and millions of her fellow Yemenis know that we will not leave them behind.