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With an alarming drop in funding for Yemen, millions of lives are in jeopardy, warns IRC

Last updated 
  • Funding from International donors falls 78% compared to June 2019
  • Millions set to lose access to lifesaving healthcare, food aid and cash assistance

Already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Yemen is facing a new catastrophe as funding for lifesaving programmes looks set to run out in a matter of weeks. This as the COVID-19 pandemic is set to peak and the conflict is escalating with civilians bearing the brunt.

Six weeks on from Yemen’s yearly funding conference, international donors have funded just 18% of the $3.37 billion needed to meet the urgent humanitarian need in the country. Funding from the Gulf States has dropped to record lows. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has provided just 2% of the funding it provided in 2019, while the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait have provided no funding at all.

Already 80% of Yemen’s population, 24.3 million people, are reliant on aid for basic survival. Five years of conflict has caused an estimated 233,000 deaths, with the majority due to a lack of food, health services and infrastructure - an alarming sign of the weakness of basic services in the country which must now contend with the rapidly advancing spread of COVID-19.

The United Nations has warned that 75% of Yemen’s programmes will be cut or curtailed due to the collapse in funding. Without additional funding, 19 million people will lose access to health care, 8.4 million will lose access to water and sanitation services essential for mitigating the spread of Covid, and 2.5 million malnourished children will lose life saving nutrition support.

Millions more vulnerable Yemenis could lose access to the US $90 per month provided by the UN and humanitarian agencies that enables many to to buy basic food - like flour, oil and sugar - putting essentials out of reach.

Tamuna Sabadze, the International Rescue Committee’s Yemen Country Director said:

“The international community must not turn its back on Yemen. Unless additional funding is prioritized urgently, vital and lifesaving support including healthcare and nutrition programmes will disappear.

“The situation spells certain disaster for millions of vulnerable people, and we expect to see a rise in child labour and child marriage as families are forced to take extreme measure to survive. Yemenis have already endured 5 years of war, malnutrition rates here are among the highest on the globe and with the additional threat of COVID-19, the situation could not be more grave.”

The collapse in funding for the humanitarian response comes at a crucial time for Yemen, as COVID-19 spreads unchecked through Yemen’s war-weary civilian population. Due to a lack of testing capacity, slightly over 1,000 cases have been officially confirmed but with 0.01% of the population having been tested for the virus, real figures are far higher. With the peak of infections predicted for July and August the worst is yet to come and humanitarian assistance is needed more than ever.

While the US government's pledges of US $225 million to Yemen are commendable, the partial suspension of aid to the areas under Houthi control keeps that aid from reaching Yemen's most vulnerable. The US should commit to using its diplomatic leverage to ensure all authorities remove bureaucratic obstacles to humanitarian response and together with other donors ensure the humanitarian response is adequately funded. Gulf states who have played a role in Yemen’s plight should not be allowed to turn their backs on the population now.

Ultimately, peace is the only solution in the long term. Member states, international donors and the UN must press for an immediate ceasefire and work towards a political settlement between the warring parties

Yemen is in crisis. Without major increases in funding the country will have little hope of recovery for years to come.

IRC has released a new report "Yemen’s Triple Emergency: COVID-19, Conflict, and a Collapsing International Response" that details the country’s high vulnerability to COVID-19 and the cost of an insufficient response from the international community.

The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012 and rapidly scaled our programming in 2015 to address greater humanitarian need caused by the conflict. While the ongoing conflict and restriction of air and seaports create challenges to our operations, the IRC has maintained access to affected populations and continues to provide life-saving healthcare, economic empowerment, women’s protection and empowerment and education programming.

The IRC has launched a USD $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide. 

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and over 20 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.