Yemen pledging drive hopes to raise $3.4b to save relief operation

Yemenis collecting clean water from a charity tap on Monday. A long conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has left 80 per cent of Yemen's population reliant on aid

Yemenis collecting clean water from a charity tap on Monday. A long conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has left 80 per cent of Yemen's population reliant on aid

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres Tuesday sought to raise $2.41 billion to support Yemen, ravaged by war and coronavirus, at a donor conference hosted by Saudi Arabia in the sixth year of its military intervention.

Compounding myriad problems Yemenis face is access to clean, running water needed for sanitization in the fight against the coronavirus, as well as cholera, which more than 2.3 million people have contracted since 2017.

Worldwide donors promised $1.35 billion in humanitarian aid to Yemen on Tuesday, United Nations aid chief Mark Lowcock told a pledging conference to help the war-torn country.

The conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has left 80 per cent of Yemen's population reliant on aid.

"The kingdom has provided more than $16bn and this includes 477 projects conducted by the King Salman relief projects". "The pandemic is making it even more hard and risky for humanitarian workers to reach Yemenis with life-saving aid", he said.

The kingdom was keen to host the online conference despite the exceptional circumstances the whole world is experiencing with the coronavirus outbreak, Prince Faisal said.

"Yemen needs a lot of help, not least because of its weak health system".

Also, more than a dozen United Nations aid workers deployed to deal with Yemen's humanitarian crisis have been accused of joining with combatants on all sides to enrich themselves from the billions of dollars in donated aid flowing into the country.

Canada pledged $40m during the conference and brought attention to the desperate plight of women and children in the war-torn country.

Britain, a leading arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, stepped in with a new aid package for Yemen worth £160 million ($200 million).

"This targeted United Kingdom aid package will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Yemenis, who now also face the threat of coronavirus", Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.

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Yemen is "hanging by a thread", the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said before the conference.

"We are in a race against time", he said.

"There are shortages of medical devices, equipment and health workers". She called on all parties to the war to immediately cease the conflict and put an end to the crisis. The conflict has killed thousands and created the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

"Such hard circumstances with the spread of Covid-19 has brought the health system capacities to its knees in handling any type of crisis", Ms Khawaja told The National.

The Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Houthis killed or wounded 729 children during 2018, accounting for almost half the total child casualties, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a report to the UN Security Council (UNSC) in July 2019 that blacklisted the alliance for a third year.

"Those who have given an indication of pledges (are urged) to actually pay early because the operation in Yemen is severely, severely underfunded", said Laerke, a spokesman with the UN's humanitarian agency OCHA. "Pledges will not save lives unless they are paid".

"Yemen is right on the cliff edge, below which lies a tragedy of historic proportions".

The air attacks and fighting on the ground have killed more than 100,000 people and displaced millions of others, pushing the impoverished country to the verge of starvation and gutting its healthcare facilities.

"Delivering aid in Yemen is never easy", Mr Lowcock said. "We want to be sure that the money will go to those in need", he said.

"In the north, we need help to relieve the strain on our programmes".

The conference raised $1.35bn, below the $3.2bn raised past year for Yemen's humanitarian needs.

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