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UN: Yemen Needs $3.85B for Famine      02/25 06:24

   Conflict-torn Yemen "is falling off a cliff" and will face the worst famine 
the world has seen for decades unless donors, and especially its Gulf 
neighbors, contribute generously to this year's U.N. humanitarian appeal for 
$3.85 billion, the U.N. humanitarian chief warned Wednesday.

   UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Conflict-torn Yemen "is falling off a cliff" and will 
face the worst famine the world has seen for decades unless donors, and 
especially its Gulf neighbors, contribute generously to this year's U.N. 
humanitarian appeal for $3.85 billion, the U.N. humanitarian chief warned 
Wednesday.

   Mark Lowcock said Gulf countries, especially Saudi Arabia and the United 
Arab Emirates, which contributed generously to U.N. appeals in 2018 and 2019, 
cut back drastically last year. This forced aid agencies to reduce the number 
of Yemenis receiving food and other humanitarian aid from 13-14 million every 
month in 2019 to just 9 million in 2020, he said.

   The 4 million people who didn't receive food last year "are among those 
essentially in the long, slow, brutal, painful, agonizing process of starving 
to death," Lowcock told a virtual briefing for a group of reporters.

   He spoke ahead of Monday's pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and 
Switzerland where Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will appeal for $3.85 
billion.

   "Without that funding, a lot more people will die, there could be 
catastrophic prospects unleashed in the country," Lowcock warned. "Because of 
the state in the country now, where there (are) already pockets of famine, what 
we're going to see is the worst famine the world has seen for decades. So, 
there is a lot at stake and there's an urgency."

   The devastating conflict in the Arab world's poorest country erupted in 
2014, when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and much 
of the country's north. That prompted a U.S.-backed Arab military coalition led 
by Saudi Arabia and the UAE to intervene months later in a bid to restore the 
government of Yemeni President Abed Rabu Mansour Hadi to power.

   The conflict has killed some 130,000 people and spawned the world's worst 
humanitarian disaster.

   Lowcock said U.S. President Joe Biden's new Yemen policy aimed at ending the 
six-year war and halting support for the coalition, and the way it has been 
welcomed especially by Saudi Arabia, "does create a major opportunity for peace 
and progress in Yemen."

   "That creates probably the biggest opportunity that we've seen since 2016 to 
find a resolution," he said.

   Lowcock said it's now up to Yemen's warring parties to take the opportunity 
and build a government that represents "everybody" and addresses the needs of 
the people including rebuilding the economy and restoring livelihoods for 
millions of people. If that happens, he said, that government will receive 
international support.

   Lowcock stressed that in order to keep the situation in the country "stable" 
for the peace process to have a chance, the humanitarian situation must improve 
to where it was in 2019 when 13-14 million people per month were receiving food 
-- and that requires $3.85 billion funding.

   Last year's $3.4 billion appeal received only about $1.8 billion, he said, 
with the U.N. receiving only $300 million of the %500 million that Saudi Arabia 
pledged, just a "modest" contribution from the UAE, and Kuwait only coming in 
with a late $20 million pledge, he said.

   Lowcock said he has been talking to Gulf countries every day for the last 
week or 10 days with the message that what they did in 2018 and 2019 "saved a 
lot of lives" and prevented "a tragedy of genuine historic proportions."

   "It's now back on a knife edge. And what you do will make a huge difference, 
and please pledge generously and please pay promptly," he said he told Gulf 
officials.

   Lowcock said Monday will be his fourth pledging conference for Yemen, and 
he's expecting a higher turnout, a higher-level presence including foreign 
ministers, and "strong representation from the Gulf countries" which he called 
"an encouraging sign."

   "I think there is an understanding now that the humanitarian situation is 
about to fall off a cliff, that a huge famine is not in anyone's interest," he 
said.

   Lowcock said he believes countries also realize that the Biden 
administration's new policy offers an opportunity to try to restore peace to 
Yemen, and humanitarian aid is a critical element.

 
 
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