NEW YORK – U.N. agencies trying to help the millions at risk from the conflict in Yemen are nearly broke, U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said on Thursday, announcing a drive to raise some $2.4 billion next week to pay for the world biggest aid operation.
Around 80% of Yemen’s population – 24 million people – need aid. The country has been mired in conflict since the Iran-allied Houthi group ousted Yemen’s government from the capital Sanaa in 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition intervened in 2015 in a bid to restore the government.
The United Nations and Saudi Arabia are hosting a virtual pledging conference for Yemen on Tuesday.
“There’s no way to describe this situation other than alarming,” Lowcock said. “Is the world ready simply to watch Yemen fall off the cliff?”
“There are tens of millions of people whose lives are now at risk unless we get, not just pledges, but the money,” he said.
Lowcock said the United Nations received $3.2 billion last year for Yemen, but so far in 2020 it has only received $474 million. Saudi Arabia pledged $525 million nearly two months ago and Lowcock said he hoped Riyadh would pay soon.
“Most of the U.N. agencies are just a few weeks away from being broke. We’ve never had so little money for the Yemen aid operation … this late in the year,” he said. “Last year it was well-funded essentially because the countries of the region stepped up and we’re hoping that’s going to happen this time.”
Lowcock said that of the $2.4 billion needed to fund the aid operation for the rest of the year, $180 million was to combat the outbreak of the coronavirus in Yemen, which the United Nations said was spreading rapidly.