SANA’A (Dispatches) – ‘The specter of famine’ has returned to war-torn Yemen, the UN’s humanitarian chief has warned and has for the first time singled out Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait for giving nothing to this year’s $3.4bn appeal for desperately needed aid.
Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that famine in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, was averted two years ago because donors swiftly met 90 percent of the UN’s funding requirements, enabling humanitarian agencies to increase monthly aid from eight million to 12 million people and save "millions of lives”.
He said the UN appeal has received only 30 percent, about $1bn, leaving nine million Yemenis to cope with deepening cuts to aid programs including food, water, and healthcare.
Lowcock said Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait "who have a particular responsibility, which they have discharged in recent years, have so far given nothing to this year’s UN plan”.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the devastating war on Yemen in March 2015 in order to bring former president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi back to power and crush Ansarullah movement.
Alluding to financial pledges that have not been turned into actual contributions, Lowcock said, "It is particularly reprehensible to promise money, which gives people hope that help may be on the way, and then to dash those hopes by simply failing to fulfill the promise”.
"Continuing to hold back money from the humanitarian response now will be a death sentence for many families,” Lowcock said. "So yet again, I call on all donors to pay their pledges now and increase their support.”
The U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years. Some 24 million Yemenis, or 80 percent of the country’s population, require some form of assistance or protection, according to the United Nations.
UN special envoy Martin Griffiths told the council "increased fighting, greater humanitarian needs, and the COVID-19 pandemic” have taken their toll.
Lowcock said the situation has been made worse by escalating conflict in recent weeks, especially in central Yemen. "In August, more civilians were killed across the country than any other month this year,” he said.
Griffiths told the Security Council that Yemen could "slip back away from the road to peace”. He said he sent all warring parties a draft of a "joint declaration” reflecting what had been said in previous rounds of talks.
"Now is the time for the parties to swiftly conclude the negotiations and finalize the Joint Declaration,” he said.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have purchased billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the United States, France and the United Kingdom in their war on Yemen.
Riyadh and its allies have been widely criticized for the high civilian death toll resulted from their bombing campaign in Yemen.