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In Yemen, UN fears famine following small pledges

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“It will be impossible with this amount to prevent a vast famine,” UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told reporters, asking states to make more efforts. The envelope is less than the total received last year, itself half of what the UN requested at the time. Organizations have already had to reduce or close certain devices in the face of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Read also: In Yemen, separatists give up their autonomy

For this year, the UN had estimated the needs at nearly 3.9 billion dollars (about 3.56 billion francs). The result is “disappointing,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, mentioning only “a first payment” in the face of the challenges.

Also read: Coalition announces ceasefire in Yemen

“There is no reason to celebrate,” added the head of the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit, Ambassador Manuel Bessler.

The United Nations had however multiplied the warnings during this conference which it co-chaired for the fourth time with Switzerland and Sweden. “The humanitarian situation has never been worse in Yemen,” Guterres said at the start of the meeting.

Offensive blinken

“We can choose the path of peace or let the Yemenis sink into the worst famine the world has known for decades,” said Mr. Lowcock, who will soon be leaving his mandate. More than 20 million people in total are in need of assistance, 16 million of whom are in difficulty with food. And 5 million people could be directly exposed to the famine which is already affecting tens of thousands of people. More than 4 million people are displaced.

Added to the difficulties of several years of conflict was the pandemic. “People who already suffer the most are particularly affected,” said Federal Councilor Ignazio Cassis for his part. “Like the Yemenis,” he added.

Among the efforts announced on Monday, Saudi Arabia, an ally of the Yemeni government in the conflict against the Houthi rebels, will give 430 million dollars for this year. And the United Arab Emirates more than half. Supporting the Houthis, Iran for its part criticized the international coalition for having prevented the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Affirming President Joe Biden’s desire to be active on Yemen, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the rebels to end their offensive on Marib which has displaced many people. He called on the parties “not to interfere” in the distribution of humanitarian aid from the south of the country.

Appeal launched by Guterres

The United States has pledged the equivalent of nearly 180 million francs in additional aid, more than doubling its assistance this year.

On the Swiss side, Bern has donated more than 70 million francs in recent years for humanitarian assistance in Yemen. Switzerland supports the activities of organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the World Food Program (WFP). These relate to water and sanitation, food security and the protection of civilians.

Last year, the conflict killed or injured several thousand civilians. The violence has caused a deterioration of infrastructure and less than one in two health centers is fully active.

The Federal Councilor calls for “unfettered” humanitarian access and wants international humanitarian law (IHL) to be honored. Both Mr. Cassis, Mr. Guterres and Mr. Blinken have called for an end to this war of several years which has claimed tens of thousands of victims.

They called for an “immediate” ceasefire throughout Yemeni territory. And also to move forward in political discussions.

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