16 Million Yemenis Facing Ration Reductions Next Month if Program Doesn't Get Funding

The head of the U.N.'s World Food Program (WFP) says 16 million Yemenis "are marching towards starvation" and facing food ration reductions next month if the program does not receive renewed funding, the Associated Press reported.

David Beasley said the United States, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and other donors provided funding for the WFP earlier this year. "Because of that, we averted famine and catastrophe," he noted.

At a meeting on Yemen's humanitarian crisis, which has been caused by the country's civil war, he urged donors to step up again. "We need this war to end, number one," Beasley said. "And if donors are getting fatigued—well, end the war."

He also appealed for world leaders to pressure all parties involved to end the war, which is causing the nation's currency to devalue and food prices to spike, according to the AP.

"They have no coping capacity," Beasley said, speaking about the Yemeni people. "They don't have any money left over to buy anything. It is a heartbreak. It really is."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Yemen Children Humanitarian Crisis
The leader of the U.N.'s World Food Program is warning that 16 million Yemenis will be facing ration cuts next month if the program isn't funded. Above, people receive free food from a charity restaurant on the occasion of World Day of Charity on September 5 in Sanaa, Yemen. Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

WFP is running out of money again, Beasley said, and without new funding, food ration reductions will be made for 3.2 million people in October and for 5 million by December.

At a virtual pledging conference co-hosted by Sweden and Switzerland on March 1, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for $3.85 billion for Yemen this year. But donors pledged less than half the amount—$1.7 billion, which the U.N. chief called "disappointing." In the last six months, the total has grown to just over half the amount required.

The meeting Wednesday on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's annual leaders' gathering raised about $600 million, according to the European Union, which co-hosted the session with Sweden and Switzerland. That still leaves at least $1 billion unfunded.

In major pledges, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced an additional $290 million in humanitarian assistance for Yemen and the European Union said it was allocating an additional 119 million euros (about $139 million) in humanitarian and development aid.

The Yemen director for the Oxfam charity, Muhsin Siddiquey, commended the donors who made pledges and expressed hope the funds will be quickly made available to aid organizations.

"However, once again a few international donors have generously put their hands in their pockets while the rest of the world looks on as Yemen descends further into hunger, poverty and an even bleaker future," he said.

Yemen has been fighting a civil war since 2014, when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.

A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore Hadi to power and threw its support behind his internationally backed government. Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and caused a humanitarian crisis. The U.S. has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.

Henrietta Fore, head of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF, said 11.3 million Yemeni children need humanitarian assistance to survive, "2.3 million children under five are acutely malnourished and nearly 400,000 of them suffering from severe acute malnutrition are at imminent risk of death."

"In Yemen, one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, including malnutrition and vaccine-preventable diseases," she said.

Janez Lenarcic, the EU commissioner for crisis management, called on the warring parties to grant unrestricted humanitarian access and allow food and fuel into the country, saying humanitarian needs "are unprecedented and rising."

The U.S. secretary of state urged donors to fulfill their pledges as quickly as possible and urged other nations "to help fill critical funding shortfalls."

Blinken said the United States remains committed to the U.N.-led effort to end the war and urged all parties to seize the opportunity to achieve peace in Yemen.

Yemen Children Starvation
A malnourished girl receives treatment at a feeding center at the Al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, on November 3, 2020. Hani Mohammed, File/AP Photo