LONDON: A UN special pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has seen world powers pledge more financial support for the country and condemn the Iran-backed Houthi militia for its attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Opening the event, which was attended by Arab News and co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: “Yemen may have receded from the headlines, but the human suffering has not relented. For seven years and counting, the Yemeni people have been confronting death, destruction, displacement, starvation, terror, division and destitution on a massive scale.
“Tens of thousands of civilians, including at least 10,000 children, have died. For millions of internally displaced people, life is a daily struggle for survival. The economy has reached new depths of despair.”
Guterres added: “The war in Ukraine will only make all of that even worse with skyrocketing prices for food, fuel and other essentials.”
The EU Commission committed $172 million to the funding pledge, the largest funding amount from Brussels to Yemen since the start of the conflict.
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed said his people can “no longer tolerate” the situation, with stifling economic and humanitarian crises causing the “window of hope” to close.
He added that life-saving UN aid has prevented the country from “slipping into famine,” and that any reductions in funding would increase pressures and challenges facing the Yemeni people.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “I hope that each of us takes a minute … and tries to put ourselves into their (Yemenis’) shoes … and maybe think about what that means and maybe find some additional motivation for action.”
He added that it is “particularly difficult” to support Yemen when “the spotlight moves elsewhere.”
Describing the “dire time” for the country, he said 17 million Yemenis need food assistance, and that figure could rise to 19 million this year.
Blinken detailed the threats of malnutrition and rising humanitarian needs, lamenting the falling support from international partners.
Food rations have been cut, and Blinken urged UN partners to think about how this will affect Yemenis.
He announced $585 million in new humanitarian aid to Yemen, bringing the total support from the US to $4.5 billion since the start of the conflict.
Money is important, Blinken said, but more support is needed from the UN and other donors to “step up and do their part.”
He added: “Humanitarian support is one side of the equation. This does not work in the absence of peace. As long as the conflict goes on, so will the humanitarian crisis. In order to really deal with (the humanitarian crisis), we need to resolve the conflict.”
The US condemned “escalating attacks by the Houthis,” including cross-border attacks on Saudi and Emirati civilians. Blinken also condemned attacks on humanitarian staff in Yemen.
UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie also made an appeal during the pledging event, urging governments to take the opportunity to act and support the Yemeni people.
Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center, told the conference that Saudi Arabia has provided over $19 billion in aid to Yemen, and that the Kingdom is committed to achieving peace in its southern neighbor.
“The Kingdom will continue to provide support to Yemen … in coordination with UN and local partners,” he said.
Last year, countries via the UN donated $2.3 billion to Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan.
This support meant that some 12 million people received life-saving assistance every month in 2021.
The updated Humanitarian Response Plan includes “coordinated, well-designed programs” to reach 17.3 million people through $4.27 billion in aid funding, which the UN hopes to receive during the pledging event.