Yemen appeal launched amid famine fears

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In the photo: Ahmed, 3 years old, receives treatment for moderate acute malnutrition in a hospital in Hajjah, Yemen. Photo: WFP/Abeer Etefa

The largest humanitarian appeal yet for Yemen has been launched – totalling US $ 2.1 billion – to provide life-saving help to millions of people and prevent possible famine.

Two years of war between government forces backed by a Saudi coalition and Houthi separatists have devastated the country, the head of the UN's emergency relief agency, Stephen O'Brien, told journalists in Geneva.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Twenty-three months into the Yemen conflict, the country's infrastructure lies in ruins and two-thirds of its people – nearly 19 million people – are in need of humanitarian help.

In an appeal for international funding in Geneva, Stephen O'Brien, the UN's chief emergency relief coordinator, said that famine "is a real possibility" in 2017.

He described visiting the country and witnessing destruction everywhere – of houses, roads and bridges, and of stunted children who were barely holding on to their lives.

That visit was five months ago and things have got worse since then, Mr O'Brien said.

It was Jamie McGoldrick, Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, who summed up the daily struggle for survival of its people, in a land already ranked as one of the most vulnerable on earth before the current conflict.

"Fishermen can't fish, farmers can't farm, civil servants don't get paid…; people are having to make life and death decisions, do you feed your child or your children, or do you pay for medical treatment for your child. And that's a daily call for many families."

In spite of the conflict, the UN and its partners have access to around 80 per cent of the Arabian peninsula state in all 22 governorates.

What Yemen needs, Mr McGoldrick said, is enough funding from the international community to reach increasing numbers of desperate civilians.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva

Duration: 1’22″

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