The head of the United Nations stood in front of a room full of global leaders Tuesday and made a plaintive plea: “On average, a child under the age of 5 dies of preventable causes in Yemen every 10 minutes,” António Guterres said. “This means 50 children in Yemen will die during today’s conference, and all of those deaths could have been prevented.”
Guterres is asking for $2.1 billion in funding to combat deepening hunger and disease across Yemen. “Only 15 percent has been met until the present moment,” he said at a fundraising conference in Geneva.
After two years of civil war, Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, is facing collapse. Its currency, agriculture, infrastructure, health care and even the most basic social cohesion have been destroyed by the war, and about 7 million people are on the brink of starvation, while two-thirds of the population relies on humanitarian aid to survive.
“We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation,” Guterres said. “We must act now to save lives.”
A half-million children are so severely malnourished that they are likely to die if they do not receive urgent care, said the U.N. children’s agency and the World Food Program.
In an irony, Saudi Arabia has made the biggest funding pledge, promising $150 million for Yemen. Much of the physical destruction in the country has been wrought by a Saudi-led air campaign — backed by the United States and others — that human rights activists say has indiscriminately targeted civilians. Kuwait, Germany and the United States have pledged lesser sums.