Yemen aid lifeline near ‘breaking point’: UN

Humanitarian aid projects to war-torn Yemen are reaching breaking point, and some $870 million is needed to continue giving life-saving assistance to millions of vulnerable people for the next six months, the World Food Programme (WFP), warned on Tuesday.

Yemen was already one of the poorest countries in the world before violence escalated in March 2015, and today millions of people lack access to sufficient food, fuel and medicine, almost all of which is imported. According to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, around 80 per cent of the Yemeni population need humanitarian assistance.

At a press conference held remotely, Elisabeth Byrs, WFP senior spokesperson, noted the agency’s particular concern for over 20 million Yemenis who are food insecure, of which nearly 10 million are acutely food insecure, adding that WFP expects coronavirus “to push many more children in Yemen into acute malnutrition.

Over two million children in Yemen are already acutely malnourished, and it’s a figure that WFP fears will increase”.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said that it had received around 15 percent of the funding required for the $3.38 billion 2020 Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen could spin out of control as COVID-19 threatens a population already weakened by years of conflict,” World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Elizabeth Byrs said at the same briefing as well.

Byrs added that the novel coronavirus pandemic was threatening food imports.

The “WFP expects coronavirus to push many more children in Yemen into acute malnutrition,” she added, saying over 2 million children were already suffering from the problem.

On May 22, the UN rang alarm bell that Yemen’s health system “has in effect collapsed” as a result of the Saudi-led military campaign and tight naval and air blockade imposed on the country.

“Aid agencies in Yemen are operating on the basis that community transmission is taking place across the country,” Jens Laerke, spokesman for OCHA, told a briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva at the time.

“ We hear from many of them that Yemen is really on the brink right now. The situation is extremely alarming; they are talking about that the health system has in effect collapsed,” he said.

Aid workers report having to turn people away because they do not have enough medical oxygen or sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment, Laerke pointed out.

The number of people infected with the novel coronavirus in the Yemeni provinces controlled by Saudi-sponsored forces loyal to exiled president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi has increased to 249 including 49 death cases.

The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.

More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed during the war by the Saudi-led coalition, which is supported militarily by the UK, US and other Western nations.

At least 80 percent of the 28 million-strong population is also reliant on aid to survive in what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.