World news – Mass starvation threatens in Yemen – and the international community is ready


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A pledging conference organized by the United Nations brought in less than half the amount needed to avert a famine in “the world’s most fragile state”.

A UN commitment conference on Yemen earlier this week to prevent it from turning into one of the worst famines in recent history ended with less than half the requested donation.

The famine has threatened the country since at least 2016, around two years after the civil war broke out between government forces and Houthi rebels. A coalition of external forces, led by Saudi Arabia, has been intervening on behalf of the government since 2015, supported by Western powers, particularly the United States and Great Britain.

However, the effects of the coronavirus pandemic may have reduced famine as Covid-19 put increasing pressure on a medical system with minimal resources and slowed the economy and border closings worldwide, restricting remittances from overseas Yemenis. The United Nations estimates that 16 million people, half of the Yemeni population, are starving. According to Unicef, a UN agency, 80 percent of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian aid, including more than 12 million children.

As a result, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the organization’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock appealed to donors at the conference this week for $ 3.85 billion in aid, without which they warned millions of Yemenis not to starve to death.

“Big humanitarian crises lead to other problems. And if they are not included, you are dealing with things you did not expect, ”Lowcock told a group of reporters before the conference. « What is alarming about the situation we are in now is that support for the relief operation has declined so much that we have cut aid to starving people. »

Only $ 1.7 billion was raised by the conference, but less than half of the target. The disappointing result makes the outlook for Yemen even worse. It’s also around $ 1 billion less than what was raised at a previous conference in 2019.

Saudi Arabia was the conference’s largest single donor at $ 430 million. However, that pales in comparison to the cost of his military campaign, which is estimated at ten billion a year – several times the amount the UN asked for overall aid this week.

For its part, the UK has cut around 50 percent of its funding for Yemen in the wake of a government decision (not yet passed by parliament) to cut its foreign aid spending from 0.7 percent of GDP to 0.5 percent Cent. The cut results in a natural decline in spending as UK GDP has fallen as a result of the Covid-induced recession.

On the Prime Minister’s question today (March 3), questions from union leader Keir Starmer about the cut in aid to Yemen prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to lament inquiries about « the interests of the people of Yemen ».

Abdulghani al-Iryani, a senior researcher at the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies, told the New Statesman that countries that have sold arms to the Saudi Arabia-led coalition have a special obligation to Yemen. « You have an ethical, moral and legal responsibility to alleviate the famine. »

Activists have accused the US and UK of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia that were used by Saudi-led forces in Yemen. Britain recently refused to suspend offensive weapons sales to Saudi Arabia, even after Joe Biden fulfilled a US election promise citing human rights concerns.

In a report released this week, the Disasters Emergency Committee NGO found that all of the country’s directors and officers it interviewed about the crisis believe the humanitarian situation in Yemen – which they consider « the most fragile State of the World ”- was the worst in a decade as the pandemic led to an increase in child malnutrition.

Aidan O’Leary, director of polio eradication at the World Health Organization and former head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, said in the report: “[Yemen] is on the verge of famine and [risk] in six months be a very severe famine. « 

Ahead of this week’s pledging conference, Guterres said that « childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell ». The failure of the international community to raise even half the amount that the United Nations deems necessary to avert famine in the country makes an impending humanitarian catastrophe increasingly likely.


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