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Yemen aid hampered by funding shortfall: UN relief chief

Nearly 21 million people in Yemen are in need of emergency aid or protection [AFP]

Date of publication: 24 September, 2017

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This year's humanitarian response fund for war-torn Yemen is 45 percent funded, the UN's top aid chief said, calling on Gulf states to "step up and fill the gap".

Efforts to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, currently the world's largest, are being hampered by insufficient funding and other challenges, the top United Nations relief official has warned.

"Despite the extraordinary scale of the suffering linked to the brutal conflict, including the threat of famine and the world's worst cholera outbreak, Yemen does not receive the international attention it deserves," Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock told a high-level event held in the margins of the General Assembly.

Lowcock, who is also UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said nearly 21 million people are in need of emergency aid or protection, most of them children.

This year's humanitarian response plan for Yemen is just 45 percent funded, he added, which means short-changing famine prevention efforts, and discontinuing programmes.

The World Food Programme (WFP) did reach 7 million people last month, helping to avert potential famine – but this came at the cost of cutting rations for about half of recipients to 60 percent of the normal level.

"Yemen is an absolute catastrophe," WFP Executive Director David Beasley said at a separate event on Friday.

"Of the less than 30 million people that live there, 20 million literally don't know what's going to happen from day to day; 17 million of them are on the brink of famine."

He noted that WFP has received about half of the funds its needs, adding that the Gulf states, in particular, need to "step up and fill in the gap".

Lowcok called on donors to provide full funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan, noting that the Yemen Humanitarian Fund is one of the quickest and most effective ways to support the most urgent priorities.

Although only negotiations and a political settlement can put an end to the man-made crisis, all parties to the fighting in Yemen must be repeatedly reminded to comply with international humanitarian law, taking constant care to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, he said.

Collapse of services

Among the other challenges faced, Lowcock cited the delay or blockage of humanitarian assistance or the movements of humanitarian staff – including for the cholera response by de facto authorities in Sanaa; commercial imports restrictions; the closure of Sanaa airport to commercial traffic; and salary arrears for health workers, teachers and water and sanitation staff that are accelerating the collapse of essential services.

"Overcoming each of these obstacles is within the reach of the international community," said Lowcock.

Three years ago, Houthi rebels seized key institutions in capital Sanaa, including the government headquarters and military sites, with the aid of forces loyal to former president Saleh.

The conflict escalated in March 2015 when the Saudi-led coalition launched a military intervention aimed at rolling back Houthi gains and restoring the internationally-recognised government of Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

More than 10,000 civilians have died and wounded thousands more, according to the UN.

Yemen is today split in two, with the Houthi-Saleh camp controlling the north and coalition-backed pro-government forces in the south

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