Yemen's population needs 4.2 billion dollars in aid
this year as the world's biggest humanitarian crisis has deteriorated
over the past 12 months of war, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres
told donor countries in Geneva on Tuesday.
"We are here to respond to a crisis of devastating proportions," Guterres said. The UN chief pointed out that the number of Yemenis who need humanitarian aid rose by 2 million to 24 million last year, corresponding to 80 per cent of the population. Nearly 10 million people are "just one step away from famine," he said.
More than half of this year's funding is earmarked for increasing food aid, but aid money is also needed for drinking water, medicine and agricultural aid, according to the UN appeal. Like last year, Arab countries that have been fighting Yemen's Houthi rebels in support of the country's government pledged significant amounts in Geneva.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates said they would contribute 500 million dollars each, while Kuwait promised 150 million dollars. Saudi-led attacks have killed nearly 4,600 out of the 7,000 verified civilians who have died in the war, according to the latest figures by the UN Human Rights Office.
The European Union pledged 162 million euros (184 million dollars) on Tuesday, while the US offered some 24 million dollars in addition to 131 million dollars of food aid that the country had announced late last year. Last year, the UN appealed for 3 billion dollars and received about 83 per cent of that target sum.
The war in Yemen escalated when the Houthi militia took over the capital Sana'a and major areas of Yemen's north in September 2014. Shortly afterwards, the Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict. UN-sponsored peace talks were held between Yemen's warring parties in Sweden late last year.
They agreed on a truce agreement for the strategic port city of Hodeidah, which included withdrawing forces. However, there has been a hold-up in the withdrawal of fighters and both sides blame each other for breaching a ceasefire.
At the start of the conference, Guterres delivered the news that humanitarian workers have been able to reach the critical grain storage facility at the Red Sea Mills, which had been inaccessible for six months. "At least slowly some progress is being made," Guterres said, urging the warring parties to continue negotiations towards peace.
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