GENEVA, APRIL 26 -With nearly two-thirds of war-torn Yemen – about 19 million people – in need of emergency support, Italy promised humanitarian aid for 10 million Euros during a pledging event in Geneva for what the United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called “the world’s largest hunger crisis.”
The aim of the conference was to bridge a funding gap in the 2017 humanitarian appeal of $2.1 billion. Prior to the conference, only about 15 per cent had been met. “We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now, to save lives,” said Secretary-General António Guterres, who presided over the opening of the High-level Pledging Event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, alongside the Foreign Affairs Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden.
Guterres noted that the “man-made crisis” had devastated the economy of a country that was “pitifully poor” even before the current conflict, and forced three million people from their homes – leaving many being unable to earn a living or grow crops. “Some 17 million are food-insecure, making this the world’s largest hunger crisis,” Mr. Guterres said, highlighting a situation worsened by import restrictions and the destruction of port facilities.
Calling particular attention to children at risk in Yemen, Mr. Guterres said that on average, one child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every 10 minutes in Yemen. “This means fifty children in Yemen will die during today’s conference – and all those deaths could have been prevented,” he stated.
Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and from the Agency of Cooperation attended the meeting. The Italian pledge will cover the years 2017/2018 and will be used to finance the UN agencies and International Red Cross activities on the front line of the humanitarian efforts.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), pledges were made by 48 Member States, the European Commission, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and four NGO/humanitarian organizations for humanitarian action in Yemen in 2017. “Now we must see the pledges translated into the scaled up action the people of Yemen need and deserve,” the Mr. Guterres said.
The exact pledges for the day totalled $1,098,466,634, “a remarkable success” according to the Secretary-General, who expressed optimism at the close of the conference that the full amount required will materialize in the coming months.
The next challenge to overcome would be to lift access restrictions throughout Yemen. Mr. Guterres urged parties of the conflict to respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered movement of humanitarian actors to reach those in need. “Access is the key for the success of this pledging conference,” he said, calling also for the necessary infrastructure to be allowed to operate in normal conditions and for goods to be imported and distributed.
Echoing the Secretary-General’s calls for access, Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien noted the UN and its humanitarian partners are “scaling up and ready to do more provided there are resources and access.”
Having visited Yemen thrice over the past two years, he recalled haunting images of a 13 year old girl who now headed her household, of toddlers too sick to register their mother’s touch, and of families living with little access to food, clean water or medicines.
Both officials stressed that funding alone will not reverse the fortunes of the millions of people impacted. They called for a cessation of hostilities and a political settlement, with talks facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Over 120 representatives of governments, NGOs and civil society representatives attended the conference co-chaired by Guterres and by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, Burkhalter, and Sweden, Wallstrom. (@OnuItalia)