UN-backed Saudi Plans to Raise $2.4 Billion for Yemen’s Coronavirus Rescue Operation  

In an attempt to save the war-torn country Yemen, the United Nations (UN) and Saudi Arabia organized a conference on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, to help raise some $2.4 billion amid many of the international agencies under the UN were facing funding shortage. Yemen is in desperate need of huge global funding since the country, which was shattered by various military conflicts, is now facing the economic as well as health crises impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

Yemen’s Dependence on Aid

The prolonged conflict between a Saudi-led coalition and the Iran-aligned Houthi group has turned Yemen into an ailing country that survived through aid from external agencies or countries. Yemen has been embroiled in violence for many years and the situation became worse after the Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene a few months later.

Citing the prevailing harsh conditions, which was further escalated by the virus pandemic, of the majority of the malnourished population, Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, told reporters ahead of the conference, “Anything below $1.6 billion and the operation will be facing catastrophic cutbacks.” She added, “We won’t be able to provide the food people need to survive, or the health care they need or the water or sanitation or the nutrition support which helps to keep 2 million malnourished children from dying.”

Mark Lowcock, the Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said on Thursday, meanwhile, the UN-coordinated humanitarian plan received $3.2 billion last year as compared to $474 million so far for 2020 by adding that most aid agencies were nearly weeks away from being broke.

External Help for Yemen

Citing that Riyadh was a large donor, Lowcock backed Saudi Arabia to co-hosting the event by saying that the UN would continue to call out warring parties on actions “they should not be doing”. With the UN calling for external help for Yemen, Saudi Arabia has already pledged $525 million while the United States (US) said last month it would extend $225 million in emergency aid for food.

 “Yemen is at a precipice. All indications point to COVID19 spreading fast and wide across the country, overwhelming the health system,” an organizer of the conference said in a statement on Tuesday. The official added that some $180 million of required funding would be required to fight pandemic in Yemen that had been facing shattered health systems and inadequate testing capabilities.

Meanwhile, donors had cut funding to Houthi-held areas on the ground that the group interfered with the external aid to the country but the charge was denied by the group. Meanwhile, Grande said several issues had now been addressed by Houthi authorities including waiving a 2% tax on aid operations, allowing needs assessments, and providing the World Food Programme for the country.

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