Yemen donor conference expected in March, aid sources say

Lisa Barrington
·2-min read

By Lisa Barrington

DUBAI (Reuters) - A fundraising event for Yemen's humanitarian crisis is expected to take place in early March, hosted virtually by Sweden and Switzerland, four aid sources told Reuters on Sunday.

A U.N.-backed push for international donors last June fell short of its $2.4 billion target, raising only $1.3 billion for what the United Nations describes as the world's largest humanitarian operation.

The nearly six-year war between a Saudi-led coalition and Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement, and the ensuing economic collapse, has left 80% of the population in need of help and pushed millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine.

Pockets of famine-like conditions reappeared last year for the first time in two years as the COVID-19 pandemic, falling remittances and underfunding exacerbated the situation.

The proposed date for the new donors conference is March 1, the four sources said, but the target amount and plans have yet to be finalised. Saudi Arabia co-hosted last year's fundraiser.

The United States' new special envoy to Yemen, Tim Lenderking, on Thursday spoke to the president of Yemen's internationally recognised government about a possible donors conference, President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's office said.

The 2020 humanitarian response plan for Yemen received only $1.9 billion of the $3.4 billion required, the United Nations says. This underfunding led U.N. and other aid agencies to scale down or close various assistance programmes in Yemen.

U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock in January said that most of the shortfall last year was because Gulf donors gave much less, adding that the target for 2021 is likely to be similar to the $3.4 billion in 2020.

On Friday the U.N. said that nearly 2.3 million children under five could suffer from acute malnutrition in 2021, with 400,000 of those expected to suffer severe acute malnutrition, putting their lives at risk unless they receive urgent treatment.

U.N. officials are trying to forge a permanent ceasefire to revive stalled peace talks to end the conflict.

The Houthi movement, which in late 2014 ousted Hadi's government from power in the capital, Sanaa, now holds northern Yemen.

(Writing by Lisa Barrington; Editing by David Goodman)