Big Story 10

U.N. hunger chief tells Gulf nations to "step up" in Yemen

UNITED NATIONS (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Gulf states must shell out more money to tackle widespread hunger in Yemen, which has been devastated by two years of civil war, the head of the World Food Programme said on Friday.

David Beasley’s call for help is the latest salvo from the United Nations hunger agency, which wants more action from nations that neighbor Yemen such as Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a military campaign there.

“What we’re challenging are the Gulf states to step up and do more, particularly when these conflicts are predominantly in your region,” Beasley said during a side event of the U.N. annual General Assembly, a week-long meeting in New York of world leaders and diplomats.

“These are your cousins, these are your brothers, these are your sisters ... so you need to step up more.”

Two weeks ago, Beasley argued that Saudi Arabia alone should fund steps to cut disease and hunger in Yemen, comments that were unusually forthright for a U.N. official.

A quarter of the population of Yemen is on the brink of famine, according to U.N. data.

Yemen’s war has killed at least 10,000 people as a Saudi-led coalition fights the Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which controls most of northern Yemen, including the capital.

Beasley, who began his job in April, said his challenge to Gulf countries followed the completion of his first objective - “to protect the funding from the United States” to the WFP.

U.S. donations of some $2 billion to the WFP, which distributes emergency food, represent about a third of the U.N. body’s budget, he said.

So far this year, Saudi Arabia had contributed an estimated $12 million to the WFP’s emergency operation in Yemen, compared to about $260 million from the United States, a WFP spokeswoman told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

There were no records of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar or the United Arab Emirates funding the agency’s operation in Yemen, she said.

Last year, Saudi Arabia contributed some $10 million and the United Arab Emirates gave $6 million to the WFP for food assistance in Yemen, according to WFP estimates.

Again, there were no records of 2016 contributions to WFP’s efforts to feed people left hungry by conflict in Yemen by other Gulf nations, the WFP spokeswoman said.

Yemen, located in the Arabian Peninsula, shares some 1,000 miles (1,750 km) of borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

Beasley is a former governor of the U.S. state of South Carolina who was nominated by U.S. President Donald Trump to head the world’s largest food agency.

(This version of the story changes figure of Saudi Arabia contribution in 2016 in paragraph 12 after World Food Programme corrects data)