United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan. 6, 2020. Antonio Guterres on Monday called on parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to stop escalation of global tensions. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivers a statement at the UN headquarters in New York, Jan. 6, 2020. Antonio Guterres on Monday called on parties concerned to exercise maximum restraint to stop escalation of global tensions. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

dpa/GNA – Cutting support to Yemen would amount to a “death sentence” for its people, the United Nations chief told an international donors conference on Monday, after last year’s meeting only raised half of the needed amount.

The UN said this year, 3.85 billion dollars is needed to provide support to 16 million Yemenis on the brink of catastrophe.

“Reducing aid is a death sentence for entire families,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the opening session of the conference held online.

Nearly 50,000 Yemenis are already starving to death in famine-like conditions, he added.

“The assistance you pledge today will not only prevent the spread of famine and save lives. It will help create the conditions for lasting peace,” Guterres said.

Guterres warned that recent escalation in fighting in Mareb province, which the Houthi rebels are trying to seize from pro-government forces, “threatens to displace hundreds of thousands more” people, after many already were forced to leave their homes during the six-year conflict.

Yemen has been ravaged by civil war since March 2015.

The conflict has since become a proxy war in the region, with Saudi Arabia leading a coalition fighting alongside the Yemeni government, while rival Iran backs Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

Last year, countries only donated 1.9 billion dollars, just over half of the funding that would have been needed.

The lower funding meant the UN organizations went form helping 13 million people to 9 million per month, according to David Gressly, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.

“Please pledge generously,” he said.

“Famine is creeping its way back into Yemen and if we don’t ramp up the aid operation quickly, it will swallow a whole generation, and peace is of little use if you’re dead,” Gressly said, urging countries to also send their pledges quickly.

“We want to turn promises into food, water, medicine and other lifesaving aid as quickly as possible,” he added.

Saudi Arabia pledged 430 million dollars and the United Arab Emirates, its main supporter in the coalition fighting the Houthis, pledged 230 million dollars.

The European Commission pledged 95 million euros (114.4 million dollars).

Yemen was suffering “the worst humanitarian crisis of our time,” said German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who said his country pledged 200 million euros, 146 million of which have already been provided.

In a speech to the conference, he stressed that Yemen’s plight was “thoroughly man-made as a result of the conflict,” adding that violence had escalated due to the Houthi offensive to take control of Marib.

The US will provide nearly 191 million dollars in additional assistance, binging its 2021 funding to 350 million dollars, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“All parties across northern and southern Yemen must cease interference in aid operations and allow assistance to reach the innocent women, children and men who had borne the brunt of this crisis,” he said.

Of the 29 million people in the impoverished country, 24 million need humanitarian aid, according to UN estimates.

A record 2.3 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition, and nearly 400,000 children below the age of five are in danger of dying unless they receive urgent food aid.

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