UN says $3.9bn needed for help in Yemen as conflict escalates

UN says funds needed to help some 16 million people in the war-torn country amid rise in hostilities.

Children stand at a makeshift camp for internally displaced people near Sanaa, Yemen
Escalating military action in Yemen over the past month displaced more than 15,000 people [File: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

The United Nations will need about $3.9bn this year to help millions of people in war-torn Yemen, a top UN humanitarian official has said.

Acting Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Ramesh Rajasingham told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that “the biggest constraint right now is funding” to help about 16 million people in Yemen, where a brutal conflict has raged for more than seven years.

The war began in late 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

Over the past month alone, escalating military action in Yemen displaced more than 15,000 people, killed or wounded more than 350 civilians and left the Arab world’s poorest nation facing growing hunger and economic collapse with no political solution in sight, the UN said.

“I call on all donors to sustain – and if possible, to increase – their support this year,” Rajasingham said.

He added that funding has been decreasing in recent years, with last year’s response plan only funded at 58 percent and with the UN World Food Programme in December announcing cuts in its assistance budget for eight million people.

“Other vital programmes, including water, protection and reproductive health services, have also been forced to scale back or close in recent weeks for lack of funds,” Rajasingham said.

‘Very grim’

Aside from funding, humanitarian access and security also remain significant impediments to aid.

Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York City, said “it’s a very grim picture from Yemen”.

“The country has been in turmoil for more than a decade … With that backdrop, things have gotten much worse last month,” he said. “They say there has been deterioration of the humanitarian situation and escalation by all sides of their military action.”

On Wednesday, the UN also sounded the alarm about continuing hostilities in the country, saying the warring parties have accelerated efforts to claim victory on the battlefield.

Hans Grundberg, UN secretary-general’s envoy to Yemen, told the Security Council that the parties to the conflict “are doubling down on military options”.

“Seven years down the road of war, the prevailing belief of all warring sides seems to be that inflicting sufficient harm on the other will force them into submission. However, there is no sustainable long-term solution to be found on the battlefield,” he said.

The parties, Grundberg said, should instead turn to the negotiating table “even if they are not ready to put down their arms”.

Grundberg said it appears that the country is “entering an escalatory cycle with predictable devastating implications for civilians and for the immediate prospects of peace”.

The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies