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UN warns that ‘the spectre of famine’ returns to Yemen after donors ignore funding appeals

THE United Nations has issued a warning that “the spectre of famine” has returned to conflict-torn Yemen, after international donors only raised 30 per cent of its funding appeal target this year.

UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said the appeal received about $1 billion (£770 million), leaving 9m Yemeni people to cope with deepening cuts to aid programmes including food, water and healthcare.

He told the UN security council on Tuesday that famine in Yemen was averted two years ago as donors had met “90 per cent of its funding requirements, enabling humanitarian agencies to increase monthly aid coverage from 8m people to 12m. 

Mr Lowcock for the first time singled out Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for giving nothing to this year’s $3.4bn (£2.64bn) appeal despite having a “particular responsibility” for their roles in the war. 

“Continuing to hold back money from the humanitarian response now will be a death sentence for many families,” he said.

Yemen’s conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and created the world’s worst humanitarian disaster, with more than 3m people internally displaced and two-thirds of the population relying on food aid for survival. 

About 80 per cent of the country’s population require some form of assistance or protection, according to the UN.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths told the council that “increased fighting, greater humanitarian needs and the Covid-19 pandemic” have taken their toll.

Mr Lowcock said the situation has been made worse by the escalating conflict in recent weeks, especially in central Yemen. 

“In August, more civilians were killed across the country than any other month this year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia continues to spend billions on imports from countries like Britain, the United States and France. 

Between 2015-19, a total of 73 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s arms imports came from the US and 13 per cent from Britain, despite pressures on the nations to end sales as mounting evidence shows its offence in civilian-populated areas of Yemen including schools and hospitals.

The UAE has also been militarily involved in Yemen over the past five years and was the eighth-largest arms importer in the world in 2015-19. Two-thirds of its arms imports came from the US during this period. 

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