UN Sec-Gen Appeals to Donors for $4 Billion to Prevent Famine-related Deaths in Yemen

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed to donors Monday for nearly $4 billion to prevent a catastrophic famine from killing millions of people in war-torn Yemen.“Today, famine is bearing down on Yemen,” Guterres told a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by the United Nations, Sweden and Switzerland. “The race is on, if we want to prevent hunger and starvation from taking millions of lives.”The United Nations says 16 million Yemenis are going hungry, of which five million are one step away from famine. Some 50,000 people have already slipped into famine-like conditions.  More than six years of war between the Saudi-backed government of President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-supported Houthi rebels has pushed the Middle East’s poorest country to the brink.    FILE – U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at the State Department in Washington.U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced nearly $191 million in new funding. He said that brings Washington’s 2021 contributions to Yemen through the end of September 2021 to $350 million.“We can only end the humanitarian crisis by ending the war, so the United States is reinvigorating our diplomatic efforts to end the war,” Blinken told Monday’s donor conference.The new Biden administration has recently appointed a special envoy for Yemen and halted sales of some weapons to Saudi Arabia that could be used in the war.Ministers from some of the largest donor nations also announced their contributions. The European Union pledged $114.66 million; Germany said it is giving $241 million, of which $176 million was already paid; Britain promised $121 million; Japan said it will give at least $49 million this year; Canada offered about $55 million and Norway pledged $23 million. View from the ground    The secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, is on a visit to Yemen this week. He told VOA by phone Sunday from the Houthi rebel-held northern province of Hajjah, near the Saudi border, that thousands of displaced families have fled from fighting elsewhere to the area and are subsisting “on the bare minimum.” It is one of the provinces that has pockets of people already in a state of famine.    A girl stands outside her family’s hut at a camp for internally displaced people on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, March 1, 2021.Egeland said many families live in “horrific conditions” in mud and stone huts, often scavenging for food at the local garbage heap. They were getting by until funding shortfalls last year cut most rations in half.      “For many that was the starting point of starvation,” Egeland said.   The good news is that children can recover relatively quickly from malnutrition with the right treatments and, if helped early enough, may not suffer permanent damage.    “It’s not hopeless,” Egeland said.

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