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US Department of States, Jun 30 (Canadian-Media): The United States (US) announced additional humanitarian assistance for Syrian people, media reports said.
U.S. Department of States. Image credit: Twitter handle
At today’s fourth Brussels Conference on “Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region,” hosted by the European Union, Special Representative for Syria Engagement Ambassador James Jeffrey announced more than $696 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria in response to the ongoing crisis caused by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces. This brings the total U.S. humanitarian response to more than $11.3 billion since the start of the Syria crisis.
The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance – both in Syria and around the world. This assistance is a component of our National Security Strategy, which directs us to continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance, while ensuring increased global burden-sharing, and to support displaced people close to their homes to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home. We appreciate the European Union’s support in hosting the conference and laud all donors who made contributions today, while encouraging others to do more. The international community, both traditional and new donors, must remain committed to meeting the growing needs of the Syrian people, a responsibility the Assad regime has proven unwilling to uphold. Instead, it has prioritized funding its reckless and destructive military campaign, payouts to regime loyalists, and the ongoing arbitrary detention of as many as 130,000 Syrian civilians, including women and children.
Today’s announcement of additional assistance through the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is part of ongoing U.S. efforts to provide life-saving food, nutrition, shelter, education, medical care, livelihoods, safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, and improved sanitation as well as mental health and psychosocial support to assist millions of Syrians in need, including those fleeing the devastating bombings by the Assad regime and its allies in northwest Syria. It also supports much-needed counseling and other protection programs for the most highly vulnerable groups, including children, women, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. This life-saving aid will be provided through the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Food Program (WFP), non-governmental organizations, and others.
The international community relies on cross-border and cross-line access to deliver humanitarian assistance, and Syrians rely on this aid to survive. In total, 6.5 million Syrians remain displaced within Syria and an additional 5.6 million have fled to neighboring countries. From December to March, in response to bombing by the Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces, nearly one million people in northwest Syria – more than 80 percent of whom were women and children – fled in fear for their lives. Following an early March ceasefire, over 270,000 people returned to areas of origin in northwest Syria, but approximately 700,000 remain forcibly displaced.
The United States strongly supports UN Secretary General Guterres’ recommendation to restore cross-border access between northeast Syria and Iraq to deliver aid and medicine. Russia and China cynically conspired to hamper the international community’s ability to deliver humanitarian aid to vulnerable areas in Syria through UN Security Council Resolution 2504, which reduced humanitarian border crossings into Syria from four to two, decreased the authorization process for six months, and stopped 40 percent of the medical aid to northeast Syria, thereby increasing an already significant gap in meeting humanitarian needs at a time of a global pandemic.
The United States supports freedom of movement for all, including forcibly displaced persons and conflict-affected Syrians, as well as the safe, voluntary, and dignified return or resettlement and reintegration of refugees and internally displaced persons in a process that is free from coercion. We reaffirm our commitment to a credible and inclusive Syrian-led, UN-facilitated political solution pursuant to UN Security Council Resolution 2254.
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Yemen, Jun 26 (Canadian-Media): Millions of children in the heart of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster could be pushed to the brink of starvation, due to huge shortfalls in humanitarian aid funding amid the coronavirus pandemic, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday, UN reports said.
Jabra is seven years old, she lives in Sana, Yemen. She is learning the correct way to wash her hands and how to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Image credit: © UNICEF
Marking more than five years since conflict escalated in the country between Government forces and their allies, against Houthi rebel militias, the new UNICEF report warns the number of malnourished children could reach 2.4 million by end of year, almost half of all under-fives.
An additional 30,000 children could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next six months.
Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19 warns that as Yemen’s devastated health system and infrastructure overall struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the already dire situation for children is likely to deteriorate considerably.
UNICEF reported that an additional 6,600 children under five could die from preventable causes by the end of the year. With a health system teetering closer to collapse, only half of health facilities are operational, with huge shortages in medicine, equipment and staff.
More than eight million people, nearly half of them children, depend directly on the agency for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), amid ongoing conflict, cholera outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency as children, in what is already the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, battle for survival as COVID-19 takes hold”, said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative to Yemen.
“As the world’s attention focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic I fear the children of Yemen will be all but forgotten. Despite our own preoccupations right now, we all have a responsibility to act and help the children of Yemen. They have the same rights of any child, anywhere”, Ms. Nyanti added.
In the report, the agency alerts for almost 10 million children without proper access to water and sanitation, as well as for 7.8 million children without access to education, following school closures.
Widespread absence from class and a worsening economy could put children at greater risk of child labour, recruitment into armed groups and child marriage, the report highlights.
‘Brink of starvation’
“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die. The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease and economic collapse, simply do not matter”, Ms. Nyanti pointed.
Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19 warns that unless US$54.5 million is received for health and nutrition services by the end of August, more than 23,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at increased risk of dying; there will be shortages on the children’s immunization, and 19 million people will lose access to healthcare, including one million pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their children.
The report also highlights that crucial water and sanitation services for three million children and their communities will begin to shut down from the end of July, unless US$45 million is secured.
“UNICEF is working around the clock in incredibly difficult situations to get aid to children in desperate need, but we only have a fraction of the funding required to do this”, conlcluded Ms. Nyanti.
Support Yemen or watch the country ‘fall off the cliff’ On Wednesday, the UN humanitarian chief warned that Yemen will “fall off the cliff” without massive financial support.
Speaking to a closed virtual Security Council meeting on Wednesday, Mark Lowcock said that coronavirus was spreading rapidly across Yemen, and about 25 percent of the country’s confirmed cases, have died.
“At a minimum, we can expect many more people to starve to death and to succumb to COVID-19 and to die of cholera and to watch their children die because they are not immunized for killer diseases”, he said.
The UN relief chief warned that the coronavirus pandemic is “adding one more layer of misery upon many others”. Caling for funding, he told members that the choice was between “supporting the humanitarian response in Yemen and help to create the space for a sustainable political situation, or watch Yemen fall off the cliff.”
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Geneva, Jun 26 (Canadian-Media): Syrian communities devastated by years of civil war now face an “unprecedented” hunger crisis, just as urgent action is needed to prevent COVID-19 from spreading, UN humanitarians said on Friday, UN reports said.
A young boy photographed at Al-Hol refugee camp in the northeastern desert of Syria. (July 2019). Image credit: UNICEF/Delil Souleiman
The warning from multiple UN agencies comes ahead of a major donor pledging conference next Tuesday for the war-shattered country.
To date, nine people have died from the new coronavirus in Syria.
Rural Damascus affected
Most of the relatively low number of confirmed infections have been identified in rural Damascus, in areas under Government control.
But there are serious concerns that Syrians – nine in 10 of whom live on $2 or less a day – are dangerously exposed to the disease should it reach them.
“We’ve only had 248 cases (of new coronavirus infection) in country thus far, but we can take no comfort in that”, said Dr Richard Brennan, Regional Emergency Director for the World Health Organization (WHO)'s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.
“We have other countries in the region, the number of cases has got off to a slow start, and we’ve seen in more recent times a real acceleration, so we’ve seen this in Iraq, we’ve seen it in Turkey, we’ve seen it in Egypt and we can fully expect that we will have a similar development in Syria as well.”
The development coincides with an urgent World Food Programme (WFP) appeal for funding to sustain its massive nutrition programme.
200 per cent food price hike
“Syria today is facing an unprecedented hunger crisis as the prices of basic foods reach levels unseen even at the height of the nine-year conflict,” said spokesperson Elisabeth Byrs, noting a 200 per cent food price hike in under a year.
“We’ll continue our work, we’re on the ground…we’re helping 4.8 million people who need food assistance from WFP in Syria’s 14 governorates. We’re going to carry on, but to do that we need $200 million urgently.”
With more than half of Syria’s pre-war population - over 13 million people – now displaced across the country or refugees, UN humanitarian coordinating body OCHA, echoed the need for international support at next Tuesday’s funding summit in Brussels.
“A generation of children has known nothing but hardship, destruction and deprivation,” said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Now over 11 million people still inside Syria need aid and protection. The economy across the region is imploding, in Syria it is imploding, not least due to the impact of COVID-19.”
To date, the $3.8 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for Syria is only 30 per cent funded, Mr. Laerke added.
Hospitals out of action
After more than nine years of war, more than half of Syria’s public hospitals and health centres are out of service, according to WHO.
From Damascus to Aleppo, facilities have been reduced to rubble, including a 400-bed national hospital in Homs and a 600-bed complex in Eastern Aleppo, which used to have a nursing school and specialist centres in ophthalmology, paediatrics and nephrology.
Amid such destruction in a country so reliant on international support, the UN is increasingly concerned that COVID-19 would be devastating for all those who live day-to-day, with no social welfare safety net and insufficient personal protective equipment (PPE).
This is despite efforts to boost public health measures to protect vulnerable populations, said WHO’s Dr Akjemal Magtymova, WHO Representative in Syria: “Even in healthcare settings, what I have witnessed crowds of patients in the facilities which are - there is - no use of masks, even among some of the health medical personnel, because of a lack of PPE.”
Insisting that there was still an “opportunity” to stop a widespread COVID-19 outbreak in Syria “that we know is coming”, WHO’s Dr Brennan said that scaling up tried and trusted prevention efforts was essential: “the disease surveillance, the testing, the isolation, the case management, the contact tracing and the community engagement and communications.”
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Geneva, Jun 19 (Canadian-Media): A critical warning was issued by the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday, declaring that it may soon have “no choice” but to suspend “most” of its critical aid flights, because of a lack of funding, UN reports said.
A cargo flight from WFP’s newly established Global Humanitarian Response Hub in Liège, Belgium arrived in Burkina Faso carrying almost 16 metric tons of medical cargo and personal protective equipment like masks and gloves on behalf of UNICEF and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Image credit: United Nations
WFP has been operating such flights to some 132 countries, as travel bans and closed borders in many parts of the world have caused logistics nightmares for the delivery of humanitarian aid and personnel.
Unless a “substantial injection of funds” is provided by donors by early July, WFP spokesperson, Elisabeth Byrs, said that it would be forced to ground most of its humanitarian air fleet by the end of next month:
“I think all the operations will be affected, because you need money to get to charter a plane for passenger and medical evacuation, or to transport cargo”, she told reporters in Geneva.
“I know that slowly and slowly, step by step, some commercial flights will resume and we use them as often as it’s possible”, but there will still be countries, especially in regions like the Middle East, “where it’s badly needed”, she added.
WFP operates a network of so-called global aid hubs in China, Belgium and the United Arab Emirates, near the locations where supplies are manufactured.
It also controls regional hubs in Ethiopia, Ghana, South Africa, Malaysia, Panama and Dubai.
The WFP aviation service has, over recent months, transported huge volumes of urgently-needed medical supplies – including Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), masks and ventilators – as well as staff from scores of aid organisations. WFP also transports goods on behalf of other UN agencies and non-government organisations, by road and by sea.
Response on a scale ‘never seen before’
“This is a response on a scale never seen before”, said Ms. Byrs, in reference to the emergency supply system, “and with the pandemic showing no signs of unabating it is crucial that the response doesn’t stop now when it is needed most”.
“The common services budget of $965 million to maintain the air service until the end of the year is only 14 per cent funded. Only 178 million US$ has so far been confirmed or advanced,” Ms. Byrs said. Some 787 million US$ are urgently required to sustain these essential air cargo and passenger movement operations until the end of the year.
WFP’s Byrs warned of severe consequences should the humanitarian flights cease. Without the service, she warned that “hospitals in developing countries would not receive desperately needed medical supplies…Health centres serving pregnant women and undernourished children, would not receive life-saving nutritional products for the prevention and treatment of malnutrition.”
Since 1 May, the World Food Programme has completed 375 cargo and passenger emergency flights, delivering “more than 2,500 responders from more than 80 aid organisations flown to destinations where their assistance is urgently needed”. Byrs added that “I could also tell you that we have provided enough cargo to fill 120 jumbo jets, waiting to be transported in coming weeks”.
As part of this system, WFP also has access to a global network of contracted air ambulances which have so far carried out nine medical evacuations of UN staff.
#Yemen; #humanitarianAid; #UNICEF; #BasicServices; #Covid19Pandemic; #FundingShortfall
Yemen, Jun 12 (Canadian-Media): Children in the heart of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster need help more than ever, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday, in an appeal for more support to provide basic services in Yemen, UN reports said.
A 13-year-old boy collects water in Ammar Bin Yasser, a camp for people displaced by the conflict in Yemen. Image credit: © UNICEF
More than eight million people in the war-torn country, nearly half of them children, directly depend on the agency for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), amid ongoing conflict, cholera outbreaks and the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, UNICEF reported that its $479 million appeal for Yemen is less than 40 per cent funded. Unless it receives $30 million by the end of the month, WASH operations for four million people will have to be shut down.
Cash-starved critical services“This means UNICEF will not be able to provide fuel to operate water pumping stations, or de-sludge sewage, or maintain crumbling water and sanitation infrastructure”, said Marixie Mercado, spokesperson for the agency.
“It means we will not be able to distribute basic family hygiene kits that include soap, which is so critical for preventing both cholera and COVID in a context where millions don’t have access to handwashing facilities.”
Keeping WASH services up and running is critical, particularly as Yemen battles ongoing cholera and diarrhoea epidemics.
More than 137,000 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the year; nearly a quarter of them among children under five.
UNICEF’s COVID-19 response is also underfunded.
The agency needs $53 million to continue activities that include training and equipping frontline workers on infection and control, sustaining essential maternal and child health services, and providing health facilities with testing kits, oxygen concentrators, and personal protection equipment (PPE).
Humanitarian pledges coming in
Five years of fighting between Yemeni government forces, backed by international allies, and rebels known as Ansar Allah, have left roughly two-thirds of the population, or more than 24 million people, reliant on aid relief.
International donors this month announced $1.35 billion in pledges for the country. So far, nearly half, or $637 million, has been paid, the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, said on Friday.
COVID-19: ‘Alarmingly high’ fatality rate
Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in April. By this week, there were more than 560 cases, including 130 deaths, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
OCHA described the case fatality rate – nearly 25 per cent – as “alarmingly high”.
Reports continue to indicate that many more people are symptomatic and are dying with COVID-19-like symptoms.
Yemenis suffering mild and moderate symptoms are only seeking healthcare when they are critically ill, probably due to fear of stigma, safety concerns and inability to access testing.
Meanwhile, humanitarians continue to scale up COVID-19 response.
Priorities are centred around community engagement campaigns aimed at suppressing virus transmission, and on procuring and distributing medical supplies and equipment.
International donors meet as humanitarian agencies sound the alarm on Yemen and call for urgent funding
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New York, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): International donors are coming together today, convened by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Nations, to raise needed funds for the life-saving humanitarian response in Yemen.
Image credit: Facebook page
More than 130 governments and other donors, international humanitarian organizations and aid officials will meet virtually to raise awareness about the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen – where COVID-19 is just the latest challenge - and announce pledges of financial support to the ongoing aid operation. The event comes at a time when the situation for most Yemenis is more dire than at any point in recent history. Several humanitarian programmes are hanging by a thread because of funding shortages.
Yemen is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with 24 million people in need of aid and protection, and the situation is getting worse by the hour. Yemen is at a precipice. All indications point to COVID-19 spreading fast and wide across the country, overwhelming the health system. The United Nations and NGOs need US$2.4 billion to respond through the end of the year, including $180 million for COVID-19 response. But funding is falling dramatically short. Of 41 major UN programmes in Yemen, more than 30 will close in the next few weeks if additional funds do not materialize, leaving millions without the aid they need to survive.
Today’s High-Level Pledging Event does not specify a funding target, but a similar pledging conference last year raised $2.6 billion. Even more important than the pledges is the requirement for speedy payment to avert looming disaster.
What's at stake?
Aid agencies in Yemen are delivering the world’s largest relief operation, reaching more than 10 million people monthly. The COVID-19 response has increased the urgency, scale and financial requirements of the operation.
Without additional funding, the consequences will be as devastating as they are predictable:
“The situation in Yemen is desperate but we still have the capacity to reach people. Even after having to withdraw non-essential staff, we have plenty of colleagues on the ground. There are thousands of Yemeni aid workers still working with the UN, Red Cross and NGOs. But most of the agencies are a few weeks from being broke. We are asking donors not just to promise money today but to pay pledges promptly.”
In 2019, international donors provided a total of $4 billion to support relief work in Yemen. In 2018, donors provided $5.2 billion, thanks to generous donors such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates and others.
On the eve of today’s pledging event, the UN has recorded $698 million available for the entire humanitarian response operation. The $2.4 billion asked for by the UN for the remainder of the year is an additional requirement.
Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, Advisor – Royal Court and Supervisor General of King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) said:
“Saudi Arabia has continued to be the top donor to the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan and urges other donor countries to donate generously. We are deeply concerned by the aggression and violations against aid delivery, including diversion, stealing and redirection. KSrelief will continue to support all regions of Yemen through the UN organizations and international and regional NGOs in the hope that this support will help to minimize the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Let us together make a better future for those who need us.”
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Geneva, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): A “tragedy” fueled by the spread of COVID-19 which is unfolding in Yemen could affect millions of people there, an international UN-backed pledging conference is expected to hear on Tuesday, UN reports said.
Millions of Yemeni are reliant on humanitarian aid to survive, like this woman in Abs in northern Yemen. Image credit: UN OCHA/Giles Clarke
Some ten million people each month have been receiving humanitarian aid from the UN and other partners as a result of five years of conflict in the Arabian Peninsula country, and there are fears that the already depleted health system will not be able to cope if the deadly virus takes hold.
The first case of COVID-19 in Yemen was recorded in April and there have already been reports of hospitals turning patients away.
Initial findings from intensive care units suggest that some 20 per cent of people being treated after becoming infected, are dying, compared to the global average of 7 per cent.
On Tuesday, an international pledging conference being held in Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, aid agencies will be asking donors for US$2.41 billion to cover essential activities until the end of the year including programmes to address COVID-19.
Read more here about the challenges facing Yemen as it faces up to the global health pandemic.
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Geneva, Jun 2 (Canadian-Media): More than five years of conflict have left Yemenis “hanging on by a thread, their economy in tatters” and their institutions “facing near-collapse”, the UN chief told a virtual pledging conference on Tuesday, calling for a demonstration of solidarity with some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable, UN reports said.
A displaced family in Marib, Yemen, carries a winter aid package back to their shelter. Image credit: IOM
“Four people out of every five, 24 million people in all, need lifesaving aid in what remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis”, said UN Secretary-General António Guterres. “Two million Yemeni children are suffering from acute malnutrition, which could stunt their growth and affect them throughout their lives”.
Moreover, since the start of the year, some 80,000 more people were forced from their homes, bringing the total displaced to almost four million; cholera continues to threaten lives with 110,000 people contracting it so far this year; and recent floods have raised the risk of malaria and dengue fever.
Fighting intensified across Yemen in 2015 between a Saudi-led coalition backing the internationally-recognized Government, based in the south, and the Houthi armed movement, known as Ansar Allah, with still controls the capital Sana’a, together with their allies.
On 10 April, Yemen reported the first confirmed case of COVID-19, posing a terrifying threat to people weakened by years of conflict, and with a health system on the brink of collapse
Since then, cases have risen to the hundreds, which, with extremely low testing rates, are likely to be undercounted.
“There is every reason to believe that community transmission is already underway across the country”, said Mr. Guterres.
Race against time Citing reports that the mortality rate from COVID-19 in Aden are among the highest in the world, the UN chief maintained: “That is just one sign of what lies ahead, if we do not act now”.
Against a backdrop of health facilities not functioning; shortages of testing devices, oxygen, ambulances and protective equipment; healthcare workers stricken with the virus; and sketchy electricity supplies in hospitals, the UN chief pointed out that even simple public health measures are challenging when 50 per cent of the population lacks clean water to wash their hands.
“Tackling COVID-19 on top of the existing humanitarian emergency requires urgent action”, he stressed. “We must preserve the major humanitarian aid operation that is already underway – the world’s largest – while developing new public health programmes to fight the virus and strengthen healthcare systems” – all of which requires financing.
Up the anteAid agencies estimate the need for up to $2.41 billion to cover essential lifesaving aid until the end of the year, including programmes to counter COVID-19.
“There is no time to lose”, said Mr. Guterres.
Highlighting that civilian casualties have risen each month throughout the year, and more than 500 people have been killed or injured since January, Mr. Guterres echoed his call for a ceasefire, maintaining that ending the war is “the only way” to address the country’s health, humanitarian and human development crises.
“Yemenis desperately need peace”, concluded the Secretary-General.
After five years of “economic collapse, destroyed infrastructure, hunger, disease and displacement”, COVID-19 is the latest blow to strike the war-torn country, said the UN Humanitarian Coordinator and conference co-host, Mark Lowcock.
“The situation in Yemen is catastrophic”, he asserted, explaining that the coronavirus is “spreading rapidly”, with data suggesting “a much higher rate of severe illness and death than in many other countries”.
Updating that overcrowded, under-stocked health facilities are turning people away, he said: “This is what more than five years of war have done to Yemen. The health system is in a state of collapse”.
And yet so far, the world has offered less help than it did last year.
Funding assistance The UN and its partners are delivering humanitarian assistance to more than 10 million people across the country every month, which has “helped bring Yemen back from the brink of famine, curb the largest recorded cholera outbreak in history and support families fleeing violence”, said the relief chief
Aid agencies are also racing to contain COVID-19 as the UN is supporting rapid response teams in all districts, importing essential supplies to help millions protect themselves.
“Delivering aid in Yemen is never easy, and we need much more from everyone if we are to continue this work”, said the UN relief chief.
He made it clear that “the biggest challenge is the money”.
More than 30 of the 41 UN-supported programmes in Yemen, will close in a few weeks if additional funds are not secured.
‘On the precipice’
Upholding that “pledges will not save lives unless they are paid”, Mr. Lowcock pointed out that so far, most have not been honoured.
He painted a picture of Yemen “on the precipice, right on the cliff edge, below which lies a tragedy of historic proportions”, and asked that everyone match their pledges of last year and to pay promptly and flexibly so that aid agencies can focus on where the needs are greatest.
He cautioned against cutting funding to any one part of the country because of who is in control, saying that is “tantamount to the collective punishment of the innocent and the vulnerable, people who have no say on who is in charge in the places they live”.
Sharing the gavel, was Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia. The country has pledged around $500m in support of the UN’s humanitarian response plan for Yemen, and he highlighted that the country has so far provided more than $16 billion in aid to its neighbour.
At the end of the conference, Me. Lowcock repoted the $1.35 billion dollars had been pledged.