For years now, the UN has warned of an impending famine in Yemen, where a civilian population facing malnutrition is also under a heavy siege by the US-backed Saudi-led coalition. Recent aid cuts have made the situation worse, and the UN has slammed Saudi Arabia and the UAE for not delivering aid they have already promised.
Saudi Arabia, which regularly kills civilians in Yemen with airstrikes, pledged $500 million in aid for 2020. According to the UN, only $23 million has been delivered. Nor has the UAE delivered any aid to Yemen so far this year, according to UN numbers. Back in March, the US slashed the amount of aid going into Yemen to about half of what it usually provides. These aid cuts have caused the UN to close or reduce about 75 percent of its programs in the war-torn country.
The US and its allies blame the aid cuts on the Houthis, who are accused of disrupting aid shipments. The UN’s humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told CNN, that while Houthi obstruction is a problem, the main problem is the lack of funds.
“What’s bringing people to the brink of starvation is the fact that we have no money. And I do think it’s particularly reprehensible for countries which were contributing last year, said they were contributing again this year and then not pay,” Lowcock said.
CNN reported on a hospital in Abs, Yemen, that is already seeing the effects of these aid cuts. In August, the caseload for patients suffering from malnutrition was double the average monthly total.
Houthi-controlled areas in north Yemen suffer the most from these aid cuts, which is where about 70 percent of the country’s population lives. About 80 percent of Yemen’s population is reliant on aid. Almost half of the country’s 30 million residents need immediate aid to “sustain or save their lives,” according to the UN.
Famine is not a new problem in Yemen. It has been ongoing since at least 2016. In 2018, Save the Children published a report that said as many as 85,000 children under the age of five died of starvation in Yemen between April 2015 and October 2018.