UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday asked for 2.41 billion U.S. dollars to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which remains the world’s largest, as well as COVID-19.
“Tackling COVID-19 on top of the existing humanitarian emergency requires urgent action. The pandemic is making it even more difficult and dangerous for humanitarian workers to reach Yemenis with life-saving aid,” Guterres said during an online pledge conference for Yemen.
“We must preserve the major humanitarian aid operation that is already under way — the world’s largest — while developing new public health programs to fight the virus and strengthen health care systems,” he said, adding “we have already made a start, supporting rapid response teams across the country, procuring essential supplies, and working with front-line health workers and communities to get information out to millions of people.” “But we need to do much more. This requires increased funding,” he emphasized.
So far this year, funds have not been forthcoming. Aid agencies estimate they will need up to 2.41 billion dollars to cover essential aid from June to December, including programs to counter COVID-19. More than 30 out of the 41 major UN aid programs in Yemen will have to close in the next few weeks unless there is extra funding, he said.
Since the start of the year, some 80,000 more people have been forced from their homes, taking the total displaced population to almost 4 million, said Guterres.
In addition to COVID-19, cholera continues to threaten the lives of Yemenis, with 110,000 people contracting it so far this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs. Meanwhile, the recent floods have raised the risk of malaria and Dengue fever, Guterres said.
UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock on Tuesday asked donors to pledge generously so that “a tragedy of historic proportions” could be avoided in Yemen.
“Yemen is now on the precipice, right on the cliff edge, below which lies a tragedy of historic proportions,” Lowcock told an online pledge conference for Yemen, co-sponsored by the United Nations (UN) and Saudi Arabia.
He asked donors for generous pledges consistent with their commitments last year, as well as for prompt payment and flexible financing to allow aid agencies to focus on where their needs are the greatest.
“Pledges will not save lives unless they are paid. And so far, most of the pledges made remain unpaid,” he said.
COVID-19 comes on top of the many problems already facing Yemen, such as economic collapse, a destroyed infrastructure, hunger, disease and displacement, he noted.
According to the UN report titled “Yemen: 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview,” 80 percent of the Yemeni population, or some 24 million people, need life-saving aid, and 2 million Yemeni children are suffering from acute malnutrition.
In the first comment from Sana’a authorities on the donors conference supposed to be held tomorrow in Riyadh, the Spokesman for Yemen’s Ansarallah Movement and senior negotiator for the Sana’a National Salvation Government, Mohammed Abdulsalam describe the conference as “ridiculous attempts to beautify the ugly criminal face”.
Abdulsalam said on his Twitter page “ In light of the continued of aggression and siege on Yemen, the resort to organizing a conference for donors escaping from the origin of the problem and ridiculous attempts to beautify the ugly criminal face, “
Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, a Yemeni researcher and a non-resident fellow at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, said the kingdom is trying to repair its international image by changing the conversation.
Saudi Arabia “has always tried to change the narrative of the war and present itself as a backer of the legitimate government, not part of the conflict”, she said.