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UN still billions short of Yemen funding goal despite $444m US pledge

Yemen’s war has killed hundreds of thousands and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine
Displaced Yemenis receive humanitarian aid provided by the World Food Programme in Yemen's northern province of Hajjah, on 22 January 2023 (AFP)

The Biden administration pledged more than $444m in aid to Yemen, where millions are at risk of hunger and warring parties continue to negotiate over an expired truce.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the funding at a UN conference in Geneva, where the international body appealed to raise $4.3bn for Yemen - $1.16bn was pledged by the end of the event. 

Blinken used the donor conference to appeal for a lasting truce. "As long as the fighting goes on, so will the suffering," he said.

Yemen’s war has killed hundreds of thousands and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

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A truce that began on 2 April last year expired on 2 October, but many of its provisions have held, giving "a measure of hope for the future", UN chief Antonio Guterres said at the opening of Monday's conference in Geneva.

Timothy Lenderking, the US special envoy to Yemen, travelled to Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UAE in February to push for peace talks.

Yemen was an early flashpoint in the Biden administration's rocky relations with long-time Gulf allies who chafed at what they saw as Washington's tepid support for their security concerns over the Iran-aligned Houthis. The group seized the Yemeni capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year. 

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalek Saeed told Monday's conference: "Ending the humanitarian crisis starts with ending the war."

Last year, the UN raised more than $2.2bn to enable aid agencies to reach nearly 11 million people across the country every month.

But many countries demanded an end to Houthi-imposed rules that force women, including female aid workers, to be accompanied by male guardians, hampering the delivery of aid.

UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said it was "rather sad" to reach the seventh such pledging conference for Yemen, but hoped it would be the last.

"The fact is the Yemeni crisis has gone on far too long, punishing millions of innocent people who didn't want it in the first place, and deserve so much better," he said.

The US pledged the largest amount, followed by the European Commission with $204m; Germany with $128m; and the United Kingdom with 106m. Outside of the top four pledges, the rest of the 31 countries pledged in ranges from $30,000 to $34m.

The World Health Organisation needs $392m to reach 12.9 million people with health assistance and "avert the potential collapse of its health system", said Adham Abdel Moneim, the WHO's representative in Yemen.

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