UN Seeks Aid for Beleaguered Yemen 04/25 06:19
GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. secretary-general is appealing on dozens of
countries to boost aid funds for war-torn Yemen, which is considered one of the
world's greatest humanitarian crises and faces "the world's largest hunger
Antonio Guterres kicked off an aid conference in Geneva co-hosted with the
Swiss and Swedish foreign ministers, aimed at better addressing a crisis that
has been overshadowed by Syria's war and other Mideast conflicts.
"Our humanitarian appeal for 2017 is $2.1 billion and only 15 percent has
been met until the present moment," Guterres said in his opening remarks to the
gathering in the Swiss city.
About 17 million people are food insecure, he said, "making this the world's
largest hunger crisis."
Yemen's war has killed over 10,000 civilians and pushed the Arab world's
poorest nation to the brink of famine. Aid groups want improved access to
people in need, a halt to airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition that is fighting
Yemen's Shiite rebels, and more respect for international law.
The war pits the coalition of mostly Arab Sunni countries against the Shiite
rebels known as Houthis, who seized Yemen's capital and some other areas in
2014 and forced its internationally-recognized government to flee.
Unlike the Syria war, Yemen's conflict has not produced a flood of refugees
to neighboring countries --- making it a relatively contained crisis that has
drawn fewer international headlines. Violence and administrative blockages have
impeded the flow of aid and resources into the country.
One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the
ongoing discussions, said hopes were high that wealthy Gulf states --- some
involved in the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen --- would step up with
greater funding during Tuesday's gathering.
However, organizers insist that aid is a stopgap measure, and that
ultimately Yemen's suffering will only end with a political solution to stop
the war. They sought to highlight the magnitude of the catastrophe.
"On average, a child under the age of 5 dies of preventable causes in Yemen
every 10 minutes," Guterres said. "This means 50 children in Yemen will die
during today's conference, and all of those deaths could have been prevented."
"We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation,"
he added. "We must act now to save lives ... we are here today to turn the tide
of suffering and create hope."
The United Nations' humanitarian aid coordination agency, OCHA, says some
18.8 million people need humanitarian or protection assistance in Yemen.
Nearly 2.2 million children are malnourished, including half a million
severely malnourished and at imminent risk of death if they do not receive
urgent care, said the U.N. children's agency and the World Food Program.
"Without further action from parties to the conflict and the international
community, Yemen is at a serious risk of plunging into famine --- with even
more children's lives hanging in the balance," said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF's
director for Mideast and North Africa.
Since 2015, about 3.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes,
though nearly 1.3 million of the displaced have returned to their home regions,
according to the U.N.'s International Organization for Migration. The IOM is
seeking $76.3 million in the overall relief appeal.
IOM said Tuesday that it has the highest coverage of any U.N. organization
in Yemen, with more than 600 staffers involved in operations in 20 of the
country's 22 governorates.
U.N. officials have warned of the prospect of a total collapse of Yemen's
agricultural sector and health system, compounded by poverty, environmental
decline, and violations of human rights amid the conflict.
WHO's director-general, Margaret Chan, said some 325 attacks have been
verified on health facilities, schools, markets, roads, and other
infrastructure since the Yemen war escalated two years ago.
Fewer than 45 percent of health facilities are now fully functioning, and
the flow of "essential medicines" has fallen by nearly 70 percent, Chan said.
"Health needs go well beyond the prevention of outbreaks," she added.
"Conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer are killing more
people than bullets and bombs."