The UN humanitarian chief warned on Tuesday that the “specter of famine” has returned to war-ravaged Yemen and, for the first time, pointed to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for giving nothing. to this year’s $ 3.4 billion attention to get help he desperately needed. .
Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that famine in Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, was averted two years ago because donors quickly met 90% of UN funding requirements, which allowed humanitarian agencies to increase monthly aid from eight to 12 million people and save “millions of lives.”;
Today, he said, the UN appeal has only received 30 percent, about $ 1 billion, leaving nine million Yemenis to deal with deepening cuts to aid programs, including food, water and health.
Lowcock said Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait “have a particular responsibility, which they have fulfilled in recent years, so far they have not given anything to this year’s UN plan.”
Referring to financial promises that have not become real contributions, he said: “It is particularly reprehensible to promise money, which gives people hope that there may be help, and then simply erase those hopes. breaking the promise. ”
“Continuing to withhold money from the humanitarian response will now be a death sentence for many families,” Lowcock said. “Once again, I call on all donors to pay their promises now and increase their support.”
The conflict in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people and caused the worst humanitarian disaster in the world, with more than three million internally displaced people and two-thirds of the population relying on aid for survival. According to the United Nations, some 24 million Yemenis, or 80% of the country’s population, need some form of assistance or protection.
UN special envoy Martin Griffiths told the council that “fighting, increased humanitarian needs and the COVID-19 pandemic have increased.”
Lowcock said the situation has worsened due to the escalation of the 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 “move away from the path to peace.” He said he sent all parties to the conflict a draft of a “joint statement” that reflected what had been said at previous conversation rounds.
“Now is the time for the parties to quickly conclude negotiations and finalize the Joint Declaration,” he said.
Inclusive political process
Both Griffiths and Lowcock highlighted the worrying situation in Marib province, where more than a million people have sought refuge since 2015.
Griffiths said a battle there would not only force asylum seekers to flee again, but would have political implications, undermining the “prospects of convening an inclusive political process that would bring about a transition based on association and plurality.”
In a statement released by Oxfam on Tuesday, 31 Yemeni non-governmental organizations called on the international community and donors to “put more pressure on the warring parties and their sponsors to immediately halt military operations across the country.”
Lowcock condemned the closure of the airport in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, to UN and humanitarian flights by Houthis rebels, who control the city and the north of the country, due to fuel shortages. The shortage has serious humanitarian consequences, “but that does not justify the closure of the airport,” he said.
Lowcock urged a speedy solution if humanitarian workers are to remain safe in the north and the UN will maintain operations, including the planned delivery of 100 tonnes of humanitarian cargo by plane to Sanaa in the coming weeks.
Neither Griffiths nor Lowcock offered an assessment of progress in the confrontation with Houthis over an oil-laden tanker decaying off the coast of Yemen.
The 45-year-old FSO Safer, abandoned near the port of Hodeidah since 2015, has 1.1 million barrels of crude on board and a rupture or explosion would have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences.
The Houthis have blocked the UN from sending a team of inspectors to assess the ship.