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Scope of Response to Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen Must Match Scale of Challenge, Secretary-General Tells High-level Pledging Event

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks at the virtual high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, in New York today:

I thank the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland for again co-hosting this conference, and the representatives of Governments and organizations with us today for your solidarity with the people of Yemen.

Yemen may have receded from the headlines, but the human suffering has not relented.  For seven years and counting the Yemeni people have been confronting death, destruction, displacement, starvation, terror, division, and destitution on a massive scale.  Tens of thousands of civilians — including at least 10,000 children — have died.  For millions of internally displaced people, life is a daily struggle for survival.

The economy has reached new depths of despair.  And the war in Ukraine will only make all of that even worse with skyrocketing prices for food, fuel and other essentials.  Millions are facing extreme hunger, and the World Food Programme had to cut rations in half due to the lack of funds.  Further cuts are looming.  This is a tragedy.  Two in three Yemenis — 20 million men, women and children — live in extreme poverty.

Beyond these horrendous facts and figures lies a country in ruins, its social fabric torn, its hopes for the future shattered.  And now escalating hostilities threaten to escalate humanitarian needs and diminish prospects for peace.  Your pledges are an essential lifeline for the people of Yemen.  Last year, you contributed over $2.3 billion to Yemen’s Humanitarian Response Plan.  Because of your generosity, nearly 12 million people received life-saving assistance every month in 2021.

Working with more than 200 humanitarian organizations — mostly Yemeni NGOs (non-governmental organizations) — we reached vulnerable communities in every one of Yemen’s 333 districts.  We scaled up operations in Marib with additional support from the Central Emergency Response Fund — which had already allocated over $230 million to Yemen since 2015.  Your support helped us prevent Yemen from descending further into the abyss.

But now a funding crunch risks catastrophe.  In recent months, we have been forced to scale back or close around two thirds of lifesaving programmes.  Food rations have just been reduced for 8 million people, with devastating consequences.  In the coming weeks, nearly 4 million people in major cities may now lose access to safe drinking water.  And 1 million women and girls may lose access to reproductive health and gender-based violence services — a death sentence in a country where one woman dies every two hours from complications during pregnancy and childbirth due to preventable causes.

I implore all donors to contribute generously.  Our Humanitarian Response Plan includes coordinated, well-designed programmes to reach 17.3 million people [with] $4.27 billion in assistance.  This funding will provide nutrition to almost 7 million people; water, sanitation, hygiene, and protection to over 11 million; health care to close to 13 million people; and education to over 5 million children.

The scope of our response must match the scale of the challenge.  We must address the underlying drivers of humanitarian need, break the cycle of violence, and change Yemen’s trajectory.  This means stabilizing the economy and restoring basic services.  It means supporting the efforts of my Special Envoy to help the parties find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.  And it means an immediate end to hostilities.  There is no military solution.

And yet we see a multiplication of front lines, increasing numbers of civilian casualties, and instability radiating across the entire region.  Allowing the war to continue is a choice.  But ending it is also a choice.  I appeal to the parties to choose peace.  And I remind all parties to conflict everywhere of their obligations under international humanitarian law.

Today, we must do everything we can to bridge immediate funding gaps and strengthen aid delivery.  We cannot cut people adrift from humanitarian aid.  The United Nations and our partners across Yemen are committed to ensuring the humanitarian response is effective, principled, and accountable.  We are ready to keep supporting the Yemeni people — but we cannot do it alone.  We need your help.

I urge all donors to fund our appeal fully and commit to disbursing funds quickly.  As a matter of moral responsibility, of human decency and compassion, of international solidarity, and of life and death — we must support the people of Yemen now.


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