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UN seeks USD4.27B in appeal for Yemen

CAIRO (AP) – A United Nations appeal for Yemen yesterday is aiming at raising USD4.27 billion to alleviate what it describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 161,000 people likely to experience famine there in 2022.

The virtual pledging conference is co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland. United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed donors on the dire needs of the Arab world’s poorest country.

The conference comes as world attention is gripped by the war in Ukraine, which has overshadowed other humanitarian crisis across the world since the Russian invasion on February 24 – raising concerns that that Yemen’s plight may be forgotten.

“The Ukrainian crisis could also dramatically impact Yemenis’ access to food,” Yemen director at the Norwegian Refugee Council Erin Hutchinson said. “We hope that Yemenis will find the same level of support and solidarity as we’ve seen with the people of Ukraine.”

A prolonged conflict in Ukraine is likely to further reduce Yemenis’ access to their basic needs, as food prices, especially the cost of grain, are likely to increase. Yemen depends almost entirely on food imports with 22 per cent of its wheat imports coming from Ukraine, according to the World Food Programme.

People gather at the site affected by an airstrike near Yemen’s Defence Ministry complex in Sanaa. PHOTO: AP

Last year’s conference raised only some USD1.7 billion for Yemen, out of USD3.85 billion the UN appealed for as the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating consequences hit economies around the globe. The UN chief called the 2021 result “disappointing”.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that 19 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity by the second half of this year – an increase of around 20 per cent compared to the first six months of 2021. Of them, 161,000 people are likely to experience famine, it said.

OCHA said half of the country’s health facilities are shuttered or destroyed. It said the Yemeni currency lost 57 per cent of its value in 2021 in government-run areas, while persistent fuel shortages drove up the prices of food and other basic commodities in the Houthi-controlled north.

It said 4.3 million Yemenis have been driven from their homes; around one-fifth of new displaced in 2021 were in the energy-rich province of Marib which Houthis attempted to seize for over a year, it said.

With the USD4.27 billion for Yemen, the UN aims to provide support to 17.3 million people in 2022, out of the 23.4 million who need aid, OCHA said.