UN calls for billions in Yemen aid under shadow of Ukraine conflict

World Wednesday 16/March/2022 17:27 PM
By: DW
UN calls for billions in Yemen aid under shadow of Ukraine conflict

A virtual pledging conference for Yemen on Wednesday is facing a UN appeal for $4.27 billion (€3.9 billion) to alleviate what the world body describes as the globe's worst humanitarian crisis.

The conference comes as UN bodies voice fears not only that the global attention on Ukraine amid a Russian invasion could worsen the already existing shortfalls in funding, but that the war in Europe could aggravate Yemen's hunger crisis.

Why is Yemen in crisis?

Yemen has been in the grip of war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took over the capital, Sanaa, and swathes of territory in the country's north.

The conflict became more intense after a Saudi-led US-backed coalition intervened in a bid to defeat the Houthis and restore the internationally recognized government.

The war has since then developed into a regional proxy war, with Saudi Arabia seeking to stem what it sees as a bid by its archrival, Iran, to gain a foothold in the region. More than 150,000 people have been killed, including more than 14,500 civilians.

Millions are also suffering from shortages of food and medical care amid the conflict, while 4.3 million have been driven from their homes, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The World Food Programme warned on Monday that mass starvation and famine could result if substantial new financial assistance is not given.

OCHA says 19 million people are expected to face acute food insecurity by the second half of the year. Of these, 161,000 are likely to experience famine, it said.

What impact could the Ukraine conflict have on Yemen?

Apart from drawing attention away from the crisis in Yemen, the conflict in Ukraine threatens to worsen the humanitarian situation in the Arab nation, with 22% of the country's wheat coming from Ukraine and Russia.

"The Ukrainian crisis could also dramatically impact Yemenis' access to food," said Erin Hutchinson, Yemen director at the Norwegian Refugee Council. "We hope that Yemenis will find the same level of support and solidarity as we've seen with the people of Ukraine."

The UN hopes the conference, hosted by Sweden and Switzerland, will raise the $4.27 billion to enable aid to 17.3 million people from the 23.4 million who need assistance.

Last year's conference raised only around $1.7 billion of the $3.85 billion the UN had sought, with global economies hit hard at the time by the coronavirus pandemic and its fallout.