UN warns that 7.6 million Yemenis are ‘one step’ from famine
UNITED NATIONS – The Associated PressThe director of U.N. humanitarian operations warned May 17 that 7.6 million people in conflict-torn Yemen face severe food shortages and are “one step” from famine.
John Ging, who just returned from Yemen, told a news conference that there has been “a shocking fall off” in support from the donor community over the last few months for the millions of Yemenis who need food, clean water and basic health care.
The U.N. appeal for $1.8 billion to help more than 13 million Yemenis this year is just 16 percent funded, he said, despite Yemen being declared one of the U.N.’s highest-level humanitarian emergencies.
Ging urged governments facing multiple demands for assistance not to forget Yemen. He said the United States, United Kingdom, European Commission and Japan had contributed to the 2016 appeal.
The biggest change from 2015, Ging said, was the absence of a contribution from Saudi Arabia which donated $245 million to last year’s U.N. appeal. He said the donor base for Yemen must be expanded, saying Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states and many other countries were being contacted. He stressed that any contributions from parties to a conflict cannot have strings attached.
Ging said over 10 million Yemenis need basic health care and over 7.6 million “are severely food insecure” - which “on the international index of food insecurity is one step below the level of famine.”
“So it’s a very fragile situation, and it’s a huge number of people that are in that status,” he said.
“The nutrition situation in Yemen is also very acute,” Ging said. “From January to April this year, over 56,000 children were found to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition.”
He said the total number of children suffering from severe acute malnutrition is almost 180,000, but the U.N. has only been able to reach 32 percent of them.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdulmalek al-Mikhlafi, who heads the government delegation, threatened on May 17 to quit the talks with Iran-backed rebels, giving the U.N. envoy a “last chance” to make them comply with U.N. resolutions.
He said the rebels should acknowledge their respect to U.N. Security Council Resolution 2216 which demands the insurgents withdraw from areas they occupied since 2014 and surrender arms.
In the Yemen conflict, a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition supporting the internationally recognized government is battling Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies. The Houthis have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since September 2014, and their advance across the Arab world’s poorest country brought the Saudi-led coalition into the war in March 2015. Ging said over 6,000 people have been killed, including 930 children.