Donors pledge additional $600 mln to avoid Yemen aid cuts
DUBAI, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Donors pledged an additional $600 million to tackle Yemen's humanitarian crisis on Wednesday, as the United Nations and other aid agencies warned that vital aid programmes would be cut this year without more funding.
This year's $3.85 billion aid response plan to what the U.N. describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis had been only half funded before Wednesday's high-level U.N. meeting co-hosted by Sweden, Switzerland and the European Union.
A significant gap in funding for the aid response in Yemen, which has been divided by seven years of war, opened up last year, forcing some aid programmes to close and the U.N. to warn of increasing risk of famine.
In response more funds were given earlier this year to food programmes, but this left other sectors such as sanitation and protection severely underfunded. read more
"This has helped push back famine and pull people back from the brink of despair," Martin Griffiths - the U.N.'s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and former Yemen envoy - told the meeting.
Significant additional pledges on Wednesday include $291 million from the United States, $100 million from Qatar, and $90 million from Saudi Arabia - which leads a military coalition fighting Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen's conflict.
Saudi Arabia's representative said it had given more than $18 billion since the conflict began. The United Arab Emirates, part of the coalition, did not announce additional funds but said it had given $230 million this year and $6.3 billion throughout the conflict.
Yemen's economic crisis, shortage of foreign currency and impediments to food imports have seen prices skyrocket.
A child dies every ten minutes in Yemen, 2.3 million children are acutely malnourished and 400,000 are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition, the head of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF said.
The U.N. meeting called on donors to urgently disburse existing pledges to make additional contributions and to distribute funds across all aid sectors.
Ninety-eight percent of pledges made earlier this year have been fulfilled, taking funds disbursed so far to just over $2 billion, said Griffiths.
All participants urged parties to engage with the U.N-led peace talks focused on measures to lift a blockade on Houthi-held ports and Sanaa airport in return for a Houthi commitment to a ceasefire.
"Ultimately the crisis in Yemen is man made ... only a political solution to the crisis can end the conflict altogether" said Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde.
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