05/11/2024, 15.44
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Yemen at a crossroads: the humanitarian emergency weighs more heavily than the war

Hundreds of aid groups and NGOs are calling for help. So far, only US$ 435 million have been raised out of US$ 2.7 billion needed to meet basic needs. The EU is providing €125 million, but, in addition to “life-saving assistance”, what is really needed is a “political solution”.

Sana'a (AsiaNews) – Humanitarian groups have launched an appeal for funding and aid for the people of Yemen, a country at "a crossroads”, devastated by war and at risk of “catastrophic consequences” if no action is taken.

In a recent joint statement, 188 organisations, including United Nations agencies, report raising only US$ 435 million of US$ 2.7 billion needed to provide crucial assistance.

This is reflected on the ground where, despite a lull in the fighting, food and water remain in short supply and serious diseases are a constant threat.

For the humanitarian NGOs, funding shortfalls constitute "a challenge" to "humanitarian programming" and is “causing delays, reductions and suspensions of lifesaving assistance programmes."

At least 18.2 million people are affected by the emergency, a number that represents more than half of the population, in extreme need after nine years of war.

Fighting broke out in Yemen in 2014 pitting pro-Iranian Houthi rebels against the Saudi-backed government.

This eventually morphed into open warfare following Saudi Arabia’s decision to directly intervene in March 2015, at the head of an Arab coalition.

Since then, almost 400,000 people have died in what the United Nations call the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”, with some 11,000 children killed or maimed who will suffer the consequences for decades.

The COVID-19 pandemic made matters worse, with "devastating" effects on millions of people who remain on the verge of starvation. In fact, more than three million internally displaced live in abject poverty, hungry and vulnerable to disease, not the least cholera.

With a shrinking economy, deteriorating public services, low-intensity violence and vulnerabilities related to climate change, the humanitarian situation is still highly critical, as NGOs can attest to.

Nursing women, older people and children are particularly vulnerable to rising food shortages.

The spread of cholera in this year’s rainy season and unexploded munitions, which have killed and maimed, are also a source of great concern. As a result, the country and its people are at a “crossroads”.

With a population of 33 million, Yemen is among the poorest and most vulnerable in the world.

According to the United Nations, hundreds of thousands of people have died from war as well as lack of food; two out of five children are not in school while 17 million people – half of them children – lack access to health care.

The civilian population has suffered the most, often left to fend for themselves, with few means to meet their basic needs, like water, food, and medicines.

Considering the many needs, the European Commission is contributing €125 million (US$ 135 million) in humanitarian aid following the sixth summit on Yemen held in Brussels, chaired by EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič.

The money, provided through EU partners, which includes UN agencies and NGOs operating on the ground, will be used to fight malnutrition, make up for health deficiencies, and contribute to demining.

While it is little more than a drop in the ocean, it will pursue specific educational projects for children.

As the anniversary of “a decade of devastating conflict” approaches, “it is yet again the innocent people of Yemen who continue to pay the most devastating price,” lamented Commissioner Janez Lenarčič.

“Over half of its population continues to suffer the consequences of conflict, an economic collapse, natural hazards and disease outbreaks,” he added.

The situation calls for a "political solution”, which is now more than ever "crucial", as well as “life-saving assistance”.

(Photo: World Food Program USA)

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