UN seeks $4bn to alleviate Yemen's humanitarian crisis

UN seeks $4bn to alleviate Yemen's humanitarian crisis
A donors' conference backed by Sweden, Switzerland and the UN wants enough money to provide aid for 70 percent of Yemen's population.
3 min read
11 December, 2018
Some 14 million people are at imminent risk of starvation in Yemen [Getty]
The United Nations said it was seeking $4 billion to provide humanitarian aid to some 20 million Yemenis next year - or about 70 percent of the war-stricken country's population.

Each year, the world body needs an additional billion dollars, UN Under Secretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said. 

A donors' conference backed by Sweden, Switzerland and the UN is set to take place on February 26 in Geneva.

"We didn't have a cessation of hostilities," although the violence appears to have decreased, added Lowcock, who recently traveled to the country, expressing hope for a positive outcome to peace negotiations taking place in Sweden between the parties under UN auspices.

He denounced obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid, noting that Yemen also needs help to bring its economy back from the brink.

"Hodeida port is crucial" for humanitarian aid, Lowcock said, referring to the flashpoint city at the heart of negotiations in Sweden.

The Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and its military allies, has been battling the Houthi rebels for control of Yemen for nearly four years, spawning what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The latest developments came after Yemen's government rejected the long-term presence of UN troops in the country's lifeline port city of Hodeida, as peace talks continued in Sweden.

Foreign Minister Khalid al-Yamani told Reuters on Monday that the Red Sea port, controlled by the Houthi rebels, should come under the government's authority.

Read more: The most effective way to respond to the massive humanitarian need across the globe

Earlier on Monday, a proposal was reportedly floated for the Houthis to withdraw, and for a joint commitee to be established between the warring parties to control Hodeida.

The Houthis told Reuters they want Hodeida to be declared a neutral zone, but Yamani rejected this suggestion. 

"The concept of peacekeeping or some sort of permanent presence of the UN - boots on the ground - or making the city as neutral is something that we will never accept," he said on the sidelines of the talks.

The government's ideal outcome would be full control of the city as a matter of sovereignty, although Yamani said it would be willing to accept the presence of monitors from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism (UNVIM) in the port, through which the majority of commercial goods and aid are imported.

Revenues could also be transferred to the central bank in Hodeida, rather than Aden where the government is based, Yamani said.

While Griffiths aims for a truce on Hodeida and Taiz in this round of talks, negotiations on a transitional governing body could be tackled early next year.

The reopening of Sanaa airport is also on the negotiation table.

Western governments have pressed for an end to the war, which massively escalated when the Saudi-led alliance intervened in 2015 to restore the government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after Houthis overran the capital.

The Sweden talks mark the first attempt in two years to broker an end to the Yemen conflict, which has killed at least 10,000 people - though rights groups say the actual figure is five times higher.

Some 14 million people are at imminent risk of starvation in Yemen, according to UN estimates.

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