Global donors pledge $1bn for famine-struck Yemen

UN edges closer to meeting $2.1bn aid target to avert mass starvation in the war-torn country

International donors on Tuesday pledged nearly $1.1bn in emergency aid for Yemen at a United Nations-backed conference.

The fresh commitments account for around half the UN’s required funding to help avert mass starvation in the war-torn country, where 17 million of Yemen's 26 million population lack sufficient food.

Forty-eight countries and four NGOs answered the UN’s call for more funds for what the UN chief called “the world’s largest hunger crisis”. Until yesterday, the body had been staring at a gaping funding hole – just 15 per cent of its $2.1bn humanitarian appeal in the country for 2017 had been met.

“We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now, to save lives,” said UN secretary-general, António Guterres. “Now we must see the pledges translated into the scaled up action the people of Yemen need and deserve.”"Fifty children in Yemen will die during today’s conference – and all those deaths could have been prevented"

More than 17 million people are currently food insecure in Yemen. The two-year long conflict between the Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition that supports President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s ousted government has displaced more than 3.3 million people, and devastated hospitals and the country’s already scant infrastructure.

The civil war has blocked the food imports its population depends on, leaving more than two-thirds of the population in need of emergency support, said the UN.

Children are particularly at risk. Some 2 million children in Yemen are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, according to the UN, with one under-five dying of preventable causes every 10 minutes.

“This means fifty children in Yemen will die during today’s conference – and all those deaths could have been prevented,” Guterres said during the event.

The situation in the Arabian Peninsula country adds to a tally of woe for children this year. In March, the UN warned that Yemen, Somalia, Nigeria and South Sudan were all on the brink of famine, with 1.4 million children at risk of dying from malnutrition.

Access – for aid workers and supplies – is the most pressing issue now, according to global charity Save the Children. Emergency shipments of antibiotics, surgical equipment, medicine for diseases such as malaria and cholera as well as food have been held up at ports, denying vital aid to Yemenis, the charity said.

“For these pledges to mean anything at all, aid must be able to reach children quickly,” said Grant Pritchard, interim director of Save the Children in Yemen, in a statement. “Warring parties are detaining aid workers and hampering deliveries by land. And make no mistake: these delays are killing children.”

In an earlier interview with Philanthropy Age, Save the Children’s global head, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said the crisis was the “gravest” the charity had seen. “The world needs to sit up and take notice of what is happening,” she said.