U.N. says $1.8 billion Yemen humanitarian appeal only 16 percent funded

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations said on Tuesday its humanitarian aid appeal for $1.8 billion for Yemen was only 16 percent funded and some 7.6 million people were on the verge of famine in the war-torn impoverished Arabian Peninsula state.

A Saudi-led coalition began a military campaign in Yemen in March last year with the aim of preventing Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking control of the country.

More than 6,200 people have been killed in the conflict, half of them civilians. U.N. aid operations director John Ging told reporters in New York that more than 10 million people rely on international support for basic medical services.

“Over the past couple of months we have seen a shocking fall off in terms of donor funding for basic humanitarian support,” Ging said. “We’re only asking for the minimum that is required to keep people alive in these awful circumstances.”

Ging, who has just returned from a visit to Yemen, said donors to the Yemen appeal in 2016 included the United States, Britain, the European Commission and Japan. He said people in Yemen felt they had been abandoned by the world.

Yemen relies almost solely on imports, but the conflict has slowed to a trickle commercial shipments to the impoverished country where 80 percent of people need humanitarian aid.

The United Nations announced earlier this month it would start inspecting shipments to rebel-held ports in Yemen in a bid to boost commercial imports and enforce an arms embargo. It took the world body some eight months to get the $8 million needed to set up the verification and inspection mechanism.

“So far the mechanism has been working well,” Ging said. “What we’re waiting to see is what will its positive effect be and we should be able to see that in the coming weeks.”

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Chris Reese