Yemen donor conference seeks billions to prevent famine

The United Nations has said it hopes to raise $3.85bn to prevent large-scale famine in Yemen, warning that life in the war-ravaged nation was unbearable, with children enduring a “special kind of hell”.

More than 100 governments and donors will take part in a virtual donor conference on Monday – co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland – as Yemen’s Houthi rebels push to seize the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s last northern stronghold of Marib.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions pushed to the brink of famine since a Saudi-led coalition intervened militarily in March 2015 in support of Hadi’s internationally recognised government, which had been unseated by the Houthis.

But with aid funding dropping in 2020 amid the coronavirus downturn, resulting in the closure of many humanitarian programmes, the situation in the country has become even worse.

The UN, which has described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and its partners received $1.9bn last year – about half of what was required.

It called on Monday for “immediate funding” to support 16 million people in Yemen, where some two-thirds of the population is in need of some form of aid to survive.

“For most people, life in Yemen is now unbearable. Childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell. This war is swallowing up a whole generation of Yemenis,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

“We must end it now and start dealing with its enormous consequences immediately. This is not the moment to step back from Yemen,” he said in a statement.

The United Arab Emirates, which was part of the Saudi-led military coalition until 2019, pledged on Friday to give $230m.

According to the latest UN data, more than 16 million Yemenis – about half the 29-million population – will face hunger this year, and nearly 50,000 are already starving to death in famine-like conditions.

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