Saudi Arabia donates millions to stave off famine in Yemen, following criticism of its role in Yemen’s worsening conflict

Saudi Arabia donates millions to stave off famine in Yemen, following criticism of its role in Yemen’s worsening conflict
Saudi Arabia has donated millions to stave off a famine in Yemen says the United Nations, which has described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
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Since the conflict erupted in Yemen more than six years ago, the country has been plunged into the world's worst humanitarian crisis [Getty]

Saudi Arabia has donated $60 million to help prevent famine in war-torn Yemen, where soaring food prices and Covid-19 have deepened battle woes, the United Nations said Thursday. 

The conflict flared in 2014 when Houthi insurgents seized the capital Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention to prop up the government the following year. 

The $60 million contribution to the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) comes as Saudi seeks to blunt international criticism of its role in Yemen, while it struggles to extract itself from the worsening conflict

Some 80 percent of Yemenis are now dependent on aid, in what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis. The war has also displaced millions of people. 

Five million people in Yemen are "just a step away from famine", as the conflict is aggravated by economic decline and the impact of the pandemic, the Rome-based WFP said in a statement. 

"We are currently witnessing an alarming deterioration of the food security situation in Yemen that goes beyond any levels seen before," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. 

The Saudi contribution was "urgently needed" for the agency's large-scale food assistance programme, which supports a total of nearly 13 million people, he said. 


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WFP said it had increased food assistance in all famine-risk areas since the start of the year as additional funds have become available, yet around three million people it supports were still receiving help on alternate months as funding remains uncertain. 

Around 50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions - the first time such critical levels of hunger have been identified in two years, the agency said. 

Over 16.2 million people were forecast to be living with acute levels of food insecurity by mid-2021, needing "immediate humanitarian intervention to survive", it added. 

This support comes as Yemen struggles with rising food prices - up to 200 percent above pre-war levels - and a deadly second wave of Covid-19, which is putting pressure on the healthcare system.