UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said Yemen is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades, calling for immediate action to save the lives of millions of its people.
His warning came ahead of Monday’s virtual donor conference for Yemen, co-hosted by the UN and the governments of Switzerland and Sweden.
“We must end it now and start dealing with its enormous consequences immediately. This is not the moment to step back from Yemen,” the UN chief said, calling on the international community to contribute generously to the UN on aid to Yemen during the high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in the country.
More than 100 governments and donors will take part in the meeting.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has announced he will lead the US delegation to the virtual donor conference and will be joined by US Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator Gloria Steele, US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Richard Albright.
Guterres is calling for $3.85 billion in relief aid for Yemen this year.
Aid funding for Yemen dropped in 2020 amid the coronavirus downturn, resulting in the closure of many humanitarian programs.
The UN and NGO partners received $1.9 billion, or around half of what they received the year before and half of what was needed.
On Sunday, the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs warned that more than 16 million people in Yemen would go hungry this year, with already some half a million living in famine-like condition in the conflict-wrecked country.
It said the risk of large-scale famine “has never been more acute.”
This year, nearly half of Yemen’s children under five will suffer from acute malnutrition, including 400,000 who could die without urgent treatment, the UN agency added.
“We are at a crossroads with Yemen. We can choose the path to peace or let Yemenis slide into the world’s worst famine for decades. An adequately funded aid operation will prevent the spread of famine and create the conditions for lasting peace. If you’re not feeding the people, you’re feeding the war,” Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock warned.