On 23 September, the United Nations said that critical aid to Yemen was cut at nearly 300 health centers across the country due to a lack of funding, according to Al Jazeera. This comes as Yemen experiences the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, with over 24 million people comprising 80% of the nation’s population in need of humanitarian aid. Over 12 million of those people in need of aid are children. The country has been devastated by six years of war that have left thousands of civilians dead.
The U.N. says that between April and August of 2020 more than one-third of their humanitarian programs in Yemen were reduced or shut down entirely. The U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, said that only $1 billion of the $3.2 billion necessary to help the situation has been received. According to Grande, “it’s an impossible situation. This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, yet we don’t have the resources we need to save the people who are suffering and will die if we don’t help.” Additionally, U.N. officials have criticized several countries who vowed to donate to Yemen, including Saudi Arabia, for failing to deliver on their aid pledges. U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths said that many challenges are facing Yemen, including “increased fighting, humanitarian needs, and the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Yemen has been at war since 2014, as the country’s government has been fighting the Houthi rebels that are aligned with Iran. In 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition intervened on behalf of Yemen’s government. This war has ravaged the country and resulted in widespread famine, with an estimated 2 million children who are acutely malnourished according to the BBC. Only half of Yemen’s 3,500 medical facilities are functioning, and 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. The BBC reports that nearly 18 million people do not have clean water or access to adequate sanitation. On top of all of this, the COVID-19 pandemic has put even more people at risk in Yemen, and the U.N. has warned that the death toll from the virus could “exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.”
Clearly, it is not the time for the funding of critical health centers in Yemen to be cut back. With the added burden of the coronavirus pandemic, funding for health services in Yemen is absolutely essential, now more than ever. Lise Grande says that “the consequences of under-funding are immediate, enormous and devastating. Nearly every humanitarian worker has had to tell a hungry family or someone who is ill that we can’t help them because we don’t have funding.” It is imperative now that any donors who have failed to deliver on their promised funding for Yemen follow through now to prevent any further human suffering.
Yemen is experiencing the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, which has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, so it is time for the nations of the world to step up and do all they can to stop this crisis. The fact that millions of people, many of them children, are severely suffering should cause international alarm and implore immediate aid from nations everywhere, especially from those nations who have larger means to give aid to Yemen. It should not be difficult to raise the remaining $2.2 billion needed to fund the U.N.’s humanitarian programs in Yemen from U.N. member states like Saudi Arabia, who have pledged to provide funding. Perhaps states like the U.S. and members of the E.U. should step up to provide further funding for humanitarian aid in Yemen as well.
It is imperative that proper funding is acquired to continue the U.N.’s humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Yemen is being devastated by war, famine, and the coronavirus pandemic, and swift action should be taken in order to severely decrease the amount of suffering that is occurring. This will require U.N. member states to follow through on their pledged donations for humanitarian aid to Yemen, and it may be beneficial for some other states like the U.S. and members of the E.U. to provide funding for humanitarian efforts as well.
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