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Millions of Yemenis at risk of catastrophe amid lack of funding, UN warns

An undated photo shows young girls in a displaced persons camp near Ma'rib city in Yemen.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned that millions of people in Yemen are at risk of catastrophe after nearly seven years of the Saudi aggression and siege, amid a lack of funding for humanitarian assistance.

"For seven years and counting the Yemeni people have been confronting death, destruction, displacement, starvation ... on a massive scale," Guterres said as he opened a global pledging conference on Wednesday.

"A funding crunch risks catastrophe," he added.

Guterres noted that the UN and partners have been forced to “scale back or close” around two-thirds of life-saving programs due to the lack of funding that aggravated the humanitarian crisis in the impoverished country.

“Food rations have just been reduced for eight million people, with devastating consequences,” he said, warning that “In the coming weeks, nearly four million people in major cities may now lose access to safe drinking water.”

“And one 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.”

UN humanitarian relief chief Martin Griffiths stressed that almost $4.3 billion is needed this year to help 17.2 million people.

The urgent aid appeal was given the cold shoulder at the pledging event as it was less than one-third funded.

"We heard 36 donors pledge nearly $1.3 billion for the humanitarian response... It is a disappointment that we weren't able, as yet, to get pledges from some we thought we might hear from," Griffiths said later on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies — including the United Arab Emirates (UAE) — launched a brutal war against Yemen in March 2015. The war was meant to eliminate Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement and reinstall a former regime.

The conflict, accompanied by a tight siege, has failed to reach its goals, but has killed hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people.

The Saudi-led coalition has been preventing fuel shipments from reaching Yemen, while looting the impoverished nation’s resources.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHA), more than 23 million, out of 31.9 million people in Yemen, face hunger, disease, and other life-threatening risks as the country’s basic services and economy are collapsing.

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