Recent funding gaps and other challenges in Yemen will put an additional estimated 5.5 million people in the war-torn country at risk of losing access to life-saving aid, such as food, cash and clean water this year, 24 international humanitarian organisations said ahead of the Virtual Yemen Pledging Conference.
With Covid-19 spreading rapidly in the country, the withdrawal of donor funds from the largest humanitarian crisis in the world will cost lives, these organisations warned. The pledging conference is a donor event and an opportunity for aid agencies to ask donors for funds to cover essential activities in Yemen.
Ahead of the event, which is taking place today, a survey was conducted among international non-government organisations working in Yemen to assess the impact on Yemeni civilians if funding shortfalls persist.
The nine NGOs which responded to the survey expect a combined drop in funding of US$82.5 million (AUD$121.3 million) compared to 2019, including a sharp reduction in the means to support the already collapsing health sector – affecting an estimated 5.5 million people.
This number gives us an indication of what the funding shortfall would mean for the wider humanitarian response but the impact on the sector is thought to be even higher with millions more likely to lose out.
It could reduce health services such as mobile clinics as well as the organisations’ ability to provide community water systems, threatening a spike in cholera and the fight against the spread of Covid-19. This will also push vulnerable communities closer to starvation when already 8.5 million people are having their food aid halved in the midst of lockdowns and job losses.
Almost 1.5 million families in Yemen depend on food assistance to survive1, many of whom have already been impacted by the scale-down of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) monthly food distributions.
Without an urgent injection of funds some organizations will be forced to stop all support for agriculture and livelihoods across the country. Currently, 20.1 million people in Yemen are in need of food assistance, and half of all families are buying food on credit2.
Ehsan from Sana’a in northern Yemen receives humanitarian aid such as food and water. He says:
“I’m a disabled man and cannot work. I depend on the aid that I receive… If coronavirus doesn’t kill us, we will starve to death inside our houses. Millions of Yemenis will still need food aid if coronavirus hits Yemen.”
Ensuring the supply of necessary goods in Yemen is logistically challenging and access issues have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 outbreak: owing to quarantine measures required in seaports, humanitarian supplies through Hodeidah and Aden have been cut by two thirds.
The undersigned NGOs warned that the impact of the current funding gaps, along with the ongoing violence and the effect of Covid-19 preventive measures, will be disastrous for Yemeni children and their families.
The organisations said: “This conference is a critical opportunity to save thousands of lives and turn things around, but we need to act now. The largest humanitarian crisis in the world is now compounded by an unprecedented pandemic. Donors must increase their funding for humanitarian response in Yemen, with priority given to critical life-saving aid, such as food and cash, health services, water, sanitation and hygiene awareness and protection.
“If funding is critical, peace is the only way to guarantee Yemen’s future. We call on all governments at the conference to apply pressure on warring parties to implement a nationwide ceasefire immediately and restore peace talks.”