United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called on international donors to give more money in the hope of raising a sum of $3.85 billion to avert large-scale famine in Yemen.
"I implore all donors to fund our appeal generously today to stop famine engulfing the country. Every dollar counts," Guterres said at the start of a virtual pledging conference on Yemen co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland on Monday, in which more than 100 governments and donors are taking part.
The UN chief further called for “immediate funding” to assist more than 16 million people in Yemen, where some two thirds of the population is in need of some form of aid to survive.
"Today, famine is bearing down on Yemen," said Guterres. "The race is on, if we want to prevent hunger and starvation from taking millions of lives."
"Reducing aid is a death sentence for entire families."
This comes as the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had already warned that more than 16 million people in Yemen would go hungry this year.
The UN humanitarian agency also said that already some half a million people in Yemen were living in famine-like conditions.
Four United Nations agencies earlier this month warned that nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five were projected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year in war-torn Yemen.
The UN is seeking to raise $3.85 billion from donors, including wealthy Persian Gulf nations, after falling $1.5 billion short of the required $3.4 billion last year.
Several aid groups have also warned of a "catastrophe" for Yemen if funding cuts continue, adding that "severe aid cuts have deepened the suffering” of people in Yemen.
The response to the UN appeal is unlikely to meet expectations, given that the coronavirus pandemic and its devastating consequences hit economies around the globe.
Meanwhile, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has urged Persian Gulf Arab states to donate more money to prevent famine in Yemen.
Lowcock warned that the world would be witnessing the worst famine in decades in case a sum of $3.85 billion the UN needs is not raised at the virtual pledging conference on Monday.
"We are at a crossroads with Yemen," he said. "We can choose the path to peace or let Yemenis slide into the world's worst famine for decades."
The UN appeal to the Persian Gulf Arab countries to donate money for Yemen comes as some of these countries have been involved in the Saudi-led military aggression against the impoverished country.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies, with logistical and intelligence support from the US and several Western countries, launched the brutal war on Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to restore a Riyadh-friendly regime that had been toppled in a popular uprising.
The war has taken a heavy toll on Yemen's infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories.
Children are among the most vulnerable victims of the Saudi war on Yemen, but the issue has barely drawn any international response.
The UN children's agency warned in late June last year that the shortage of humanitarian assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic threatened to push more children in Yemen to the brink of starvation.
The United Nations describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of the people in need of help.