Middle East: UN issues desperate plea for financial aid in war-ravaged Yemen

The United Nations has warned that three-quarters of the aid programmes backed by its agencies in war-ravaged Yemen will have to shutter in weeks without more funding, even as both COVID-19 and cholera continue to spread in the country facing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen’s long-running conflict mainly pits Houthi rebels against a pro-government camp supported by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The fighting has left some 24 million Yemenis – more than two-thirds of the population – to rely on some form of aid.

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International donors pledged $1.35bn for Yemen at a conference on June 2 – but that was well below a $2.4bn fundraising target needed to prevent severe cutbacks in the UN’s aid operation.

“More than 30 of the 41 UN-supported programmes in Yemen will close in the coming weeks if additional funds are not secured,” UN human rights spokesman Rupert Colville told a briefing in Geneva.

“Now, more than ever, the country needs the outside world’s help, and it’s not really getting it,” he said.

Jens Laerke, a spokesman for the US Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said only 47 percent of the promised $1.35bn had actually been received.

Yemen has so far reported 564 confirmed coronavirus infections and 130 related deaths, but the figures lag and may not include all cases in areas controlled by the Houthis in the north, Colville said.

The challenging situation is compounded by the country’s extremely limited testing capacity. According to data compiled by the International Rescue Committee, Yemen has one of the world’s lowest testing rates, even compared with other conflict-hit countries, at just 31 tests per million citizens.

Meanwhile, some 137,000 cases of cholera and diarrhoea have been recorded this year, nearly a quarter of them in childre

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