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A Massive Famine Is Creeping Into Yemen, We Need To Stop It Devouring a Generation

A Massive Famine Is Creeping Into Yemen, We Need To Stop It Devouring a Generation
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By Mark Lowcock, Ignazio Cassis, Ann Linde and Per Olsson Fridh*** – The Guardian

In November the United Nations issued a warning that Yemen was in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades.

Today Yemen is fast approaching the point of no return. Yet, just as the country reaches its darkest hour, an opportunity has presented itself.

There is no doubt the new US position on Yemen – and how it’s been welcomed by others – creates the best chance yet to save lives, stave off a mass famine, and forge a path to peace.

The question is whether the opportunity is seized. Many people have a role to play in this. But what the international donor community does now will be crucial.

It is impossible to overstate the horror of daily life in Yemen. Two in every three Yemeni people are in need of aid and protection. Nearly 50,000 Yemenis are already living in famine-like conditions.

The war has decimated the economy and crushed public services. Life in Yemen for the average person has become unbearable. Children are starving. This year, nearly half of all under-fives are set to suffer from acute malnutrition. This includes 400,000 facing severe acute malnutrition.

They are susceptible to preventable diseases such as cholera, diphtheria and measles. Every ten minutes at least one child dies a needless death from a disease like this in Yemen.

Sick children are turned away by health facilities who don’t have medicines or supplies. Or they cannot get to health facilities because their parents can’t afford transport. Every day, Yemeni children are killed or maimed in the conflict.

The only long-term solution to Yemen’s problems is to find an acceptable end to the war, led by the aspirations of Yemenis.

But a political and diplomatic effort will only stand a chance if it is underpinned by a stable humanitarian situation.

As the path to peace is forged, we must help rebuild the country, the public systems and – most urgently – feed the children who are wasting away because they’re starving.

We have hardly witnessed a clearer case for scaling up humanitarian relief in decades. But last year funding dropped dramatically.

In 2020, the UN-led humanitarian operation received $1.9bn – half of what we needed and half of what we received the year before.

The impact on Yemenis who depend on aid to survive was brutal. It meant people who needed help did not get it.

With famine already creeping in, we need to quickly ramp up the aid operation if we want to stop it devouring a whole generation.

Nearly $4bn is what it will take to hold back a massive famine and address urgent needs. If the UN gets this funding it will be able to help 16 million people across Yemen to survive.

We can achieve this if donors commit to returning to the much higher funding levels of 2019 – at the very minimum.

Anything less is not enough. Anything less would squander this opportunity to stave off mass famine and take a meaningful step towards peace.

Every extra dollar the UN and partners receive for the aid operation is a step in the right direction and the sooner it arrives the better. We need to turn promises into food and medical supplies as quickly as possible because time is not on our side.

This is not the moment to step back from Yemen. No one in Yemen deserves to die because they cannot get enough to eat.

More money for the aid operation is the fastest, most efficient way to prevent a famine. It will also help create the conditions for lasting peace.

2020 was hard for everyone, but it hit some much harder than others. The people of Yemen desperately need help right now. So let’s stand by them.

***Mark Lowcock is the UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs; Ignazio Cassis is vice president and head of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Switzerland; Ann Linde is minister for foreign affairs in Sweden; Per Olsson Fridh is minister for international development cooperation and humanitarian affairs in Sweden.