$1.35bn raised for Yemen in virtual donors conference hosted by Saudi Arabia, UN

Saudi Arabia hosted a virtual donors conference for Yemen in partnership with the United Nations on Tuesday, during which $1.35 billion was pledged to humanitarian efforts in the country. (AFP/SPA)
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Updated 03 June 2020

$1.35bn raised for Yemen in virtual donors conference hosted by Saudi Arabia, UN

  • The UN said it hopes the event will raise $2.4 billion in aid for the country

NEW YORK: International donors on Tuesday pledged $1.35 billion of aid for Yemen, during a virtual humanitarian event organized by Saudi Arabia, in partnership with the United Nations

Time is of the essence in the efforts to help the people of Yemen, the donors were reminded at the end of the conference.

“When the pledges are paid literally means the difference between life and death for countless Yemeni people,” said UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs Mark Lowcock, who co-chaired the event with Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, the supervisor general of Saudi Arabia's King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center.

“I reiterate the plea the secretary-general made to all those who made pledges to pay them straightaway, because pledges on their own achieve nothing.”

Lowcock also called on countries that had not yet pledged to do so as soon as possible, and added that the UN will continue its fundraising efforts. “This is not the end,” he said.

The event followed a call by UN aid workers in Yemen for more than $2.4 billion to fund emergency aid, including medical supplies, food and shelter, at a time when the coronavirus pandemic is making what was already a dire situation even worse.

Humanitarian organizations need the funding to shore up their operations in Yemen, where 75 percent of UN programs have had to close or been scaled down because of lack of money.

There are many reasons for the dwindling funds, but one of the main issues has been obstruction by the Houthi rebels who control the capital, Sanaa, and other territories. The United States, one of the largest donors, decreased its aid to Yemen this year blaming the decision on  interference by the Houthis.

In his opening statement at the conference, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that aid workers face a race against time in Yemen.

“Unless we secure significant funding, more than 30 out of 41 major United Nations programs in Yemen will close in the next few weeks,” he said

He also thanked Saudi Arabia for its “continued commitment to the humanitarian aid to the people of Yemen.”

The Kingdom pledged $500 million during the conference’s opening ceremony.

Melissa Fleming, the UN’s under-secretary-general for global communications, who moderated a question-and-answer session after the conference, described Saudi Arabia as “the largest funder of the humanitarian response in Yemen in recent years.”

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed thanked the Kingdom for its contribution and its role in Yemen in recent years. Describing the humanitarian crisis in his country, he said “a macabre tragedy is imminent.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of foreign affairs, reiterated the Kingdom’s “firm commitment to alleviating the human suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people.”

He also passed on King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “deep appreciation to the United Nations for its efforts in providing humanitarian work through its agencies operating around the world, and in Yemen in particular.”

He added: “The Kingdom has provided humanitarian aid to Yemen since the beginning of the crisis, totaling more than 16 billion, nine hundred and forty million US dollars.”

Prince Faisal called on the international community to honor its financial promises to Yemen. The people of the country are looking forward to an effective resolution that will help them face the humanitarian, military, security and economic-development challenges they face “due to the inhuman practices and violations by Iranian-backed Houthi militias….blocking out humanitarian aid, looting relief convoys, and impeding its access to all Yemeni lands,” he added

The prince also highlighted the refusal by the Houthis to accept any political solution to the crisis in Yemen based on international resolutions and the Stockholm Agreement “and thus, the Houthi denial of all efforts and initiatives for a ceasefire, and the UN Envoy for Yemen’s invitation to engage in direct negotiations between all Yemeni parties.”

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READ MORE: Saudi Arabia to organize virtual donors conference for Yemen in partnership with UN

Saudi Arabia’s donor conference ‘embodies Kingdom's support’ of Yemen

Donors seek to raise $2.4 billion for Yemen

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The pledging event brought together representatives of more than 125 UN member states, international organizations, UN agencies, NGOs and civil-society groups to raise funds to meet the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN’s humanitarian agency, echoed the pleas for those who pledged to “actually pay early because the operation in Yemen is severely, severely underfunded. We are running out of time.”

“COVID-19 has created new needs there, but (it) is just the latest challenge in an already deteriorating situation,” Al-Rabeeah said during a press conference after the event. The UN has accused the Houthi rebels of underreporting the number of coronavirus cases.

“I leave this conference with a positive attitude,” Al-Rabeeah added. “Even though the pledging did not reach last year’s numbers it is a very good response, taking into account the various factors at play, from COVID-19 and the economic crisis resulting from it to the reticence of some donors due to violations of humanitarian aid.”




A child reads at a camp for Yemenis displaced by conflict in the Khor Maksar district in Aden. (AFP)

He vowed that the Kingdom will continue to advocate for a political solution to the war in Yemen, to support the country, and to work hard to assist in its battle against Covid-19.

“If we continue to advocate these points, then we are not far from reaching a better future for Yemen,” he said.

Lowcock thanked Al-Rabeeah for the Saudi collaboration on a conference that highlighted the “wide issues that are adulterating the human response in Yemen, and restrictions by parties in Yemen which made our work there harder.”

He again urged donors to pay promptly, “otherwise, the life-saving programs will simply close. Those who have not pledged, it is important that they stand up and play a role.”

He said UN fundraising efforts will continue, adding: “We cannot be satisfied with what where we got today. What’s needed in Yemen is peace but in the meantime we have to keep people alive.”

Al-Rabeeah noted that although only about half the money being sought was raised, it is enough to maintain “the momentum of humanitarian work in Yemen.”

He said: “It is important to keep the work going. (There needs to be) determination, on the part of the UN and donor countries, that we will do what it takes to protect those donations.

“We hope that the hindrances to humanitarian workers, and to the aid itself, will be limited and minimized. It is about time for those who violate international law to stop, and to allow the international community to do the humanitarian work.

“We should not shy away from bringing those violations to light, and to the attention of international community. We should also make it clear at the Security Council that those violations are happening on this or that side.

“Enough selling the lives of the Yemeni people for political motives,” added Al-Rabeeah.


PLEDGES (IN $):

Austria: 1.1m

Belgium (1): 5.52m

Bulgaria (1): 55,000

Canada (1): 29.03m

Cyprus: 55,000

Czech Republic: 737,000

Denmark: 3.41m

European Commission: 78.21m

Finland: 3.31m

France: 9.60m

Germany (1): 137.97m

Greece: 33,000

Iceland: 200,000

Ireland (1): 5.52m

Italy: 5.79m

Japan: 41.20m

Korea, Rep. of (1): 18.50m

Lithuania (1): 110,000

Luxembourg (1): 2.04m

Malaysia: 100,000

Malta (1): 33,000

Netherlands (1): 17.00m

Norway (1): 17.78m

Russia: 4m

Saudi Arabia: 500m

Slovenia (2): 93,000

Sweden (1): 30.84m

Switzerland (1,2): 12.40m

United Kingdom (1): 196.56m

United States: 225m

(1) Made announcement to the Yemen Humanitarian Fund

(2) Made multi-year announcement


 


Russia, China veto UN extension of cross-border aid in Syria

Updated 20 min 4 sec ago

Russia, China veto UN extension of cross-border aid in Syria

  • Beyond Russia and China, the other 13 council members voted to approve the draft
  • Moscow had asked that the extension be limited to six months

United Nations, US: Russia and China on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have extended authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid in Syria for a year, though Moscow swiftly proposed a more limited extension.
Germany and Belgium, two of the council’s non-permanent members, had drafted the resolution, which would have allowed aid to continue to pass through two points on the Turkish border without interference from Damascus.
Beyond Russia and China, the other 13 council members voted to approve the draft, the diplomats said.
During negotiations, Moscow had asked that the extension be limited to six months, rather than a year, and that it only be allowed at one border crossing, not two, they said.
“The draft resolution has not been adopted,” Germany’s UN ambassador Christoph Heusgen, the acting president of the body in July, confirmed in a letter to Council members.
Immediately after the vote, Russia proposed its own draft resolution.
Obtained by AFP, it repeats the call for a six-month extension, underlines the improvement in the delivery of humanitarian aid under the control of the Syrian regime, and excludes one of the two entry points into Syria — Bab Al-Salam — from the mechanism.
The results of a vote on that resolution will be known on Wednesday.
Authorization for cross-border humanitarian aid has existed since 2014, with periodic extensions. The latest extension expires on Friday.
Tuesday’s vote was the 15th time that Russia has used its veto since the start of the Syrian war in 2011, and the ninth for China.
They argue that the UN authorization violates Syria’s sovereignty, and that aid can increasingly be channelled through Syrian authorities.
Western nations and the UN secretariat however insist that cross-border aid is the only credible option, and that relief supplies would face multiple obstacles if they had to pass through Damascus’ control.
The veto was an “extremely negative development,” one European diplomat said on condition of anonymity.
“They want to strangle the population even more,” the diplomat said, adding that aid “cannot reach the population from one” crossing point.
“Insisting on only one crossing point is cynical and it doesn’t meet the needs of the people,” the source said.
The Bab Al-Hawa crossing point allows for shipments of humanitarian aid to the three to four million people living in the opposition-held Idlib region.
The International Rescue Committee quickly condemned the veto.
“Blocking access to food, health care supplies, vaccines, and ventilators is unacceptable anytime but in the year of COVID-19, it is even more reprehensible,” said IRC president David Miliband in a statement.
After the vote, China explained that it too was in favor of maintaining the cross-border authorization.
Its veto is due to the refusal of Germany and Belgium to take into account its request for a statement condemning the unilateral US sanctions imposed on Syria, Chinese diplomats said.
In January, Moscow, Syria’s closest ally, succeeded in having the crossing points reduced from four to two and in limiting the authorization to six months instead of a year, as had been done previously.
In a report in late June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a one-year extension of the use of the two crossing points.
Guterres said that since 2014, 4,774 trucks have used the Bab Al-Salam crossing and 28,574 have used Bab Al-Hawa.
According to a report published by the UN in Geneva on Tuesday, the humanitarian situation in Idlib province is disastrous.
“Syria’s economy is devastated,” said Hanny Megally, one of the authors of the report.
“The country has been in a nine-year conflict. People are suffering.”