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  • Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and the fighting has pushed 12 million people to the brink of starvation.

    Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and the fighting has pushed 12 million people to the brink of starvation. | Photo: Reuters

Published 21 August 2019

“All of us are ashamed by the situation,” says UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.” 

United Nations and humanitarian groups were promised to receive US$2.6 billion in urgent help for Yemen at a pledging event held last February, however, less than half of the amount has been collected so far. 

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“We are desperate for the funds that were promised,” said Lise Grande, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. “When money doesn’t come, people die.” 

Only three U.N. humanitarian programs in Yemen are currently funded among the 34 major programs. Many large-scale projects aiming at helping hungry families have been unable to start while 22 life-saving programs will close in the next two months if funding is not received. 

“All of us are ashamed by the situation”, said Grande. “It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.” 

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that it had been forced to cease most of the vaccination campaigns in the country for lack of resources. Provisioning in medicines has been stopped and thousands of health workers are no longer receiving financial support. 

Plans to create 30 new nutrition centers have been delayed and 14 safe houses and four specialized mental health facilities for women have closed. A treatment plant that disinfects the water used to irrigate agricultural fields shut in June. 

“Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive,” lamented Yemen’s UN coordinator.  

“This is the largest humanitarian operation in the world addressing the worst humanitarian crisis,” Grande added. “When we receive funding, we make a huge difference.” 

Unless the funds promised at the pledging conference are received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut-off from essential services.  

Moreover, 19 million people will lose access to health care, including one million women who depend on the U.N. for reproductive health. Clean water programs for five million people will be shuttered at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.

Dubbed as the “Forgotten War,” the Yemeni civil war started on March 26, 2015, when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a coalition of countries in a military campaign against the Houthis in Yemen in support of the Saudi-backed government of Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi. 

The conflict has since turned into a proxy war between Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Iran. 

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