In Yemen, top UN relief official warns of funding shortfalls for civilian aid

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, on visit to Yemen, talks with an elderly man who said his home burnt to the ground during fighting. Photo: OCHA

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, on visit to Yemen, talks with an elderly man who said his home burnt to the ground during fighting. Photo: OCHA

13 August 2015

The international community must step up its funding of relief efforts in Yemen and help in delivering critical aid to civilians amid the country’s protracted civil conflict, the top United Nations humanitarian official has declared.

Delivering his remarks to the press in the port city of Aden at the conclusion of a special visit to the war-torn Gulf country, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told reporters yesterday that providing assistance to the millions in need was becoming increasingly difficult for aid workers due to intensifying violence and funding shortfalls.

“The scaling up of assistance and the full-fledged return of all our staff to Aden is made extremely difficult by the destruction and looting of the UN premises and assets,” declared Mr. O’Brien. “We cannot assist the people in Aden if we do not have offices, vehicles and the knowledge that our staff can work in safety and security.”

According to OCHA, almost 7 million people have received some form of assistance from April to July throughout all of Yemen. In Aden alone, over 280,000 people have had access to quality health care services; nearly 240,000 people have received emergency food assistance and over 16,000 people emergency shelter. At the same time, an estimated 21 million people, or 80 per cent of the population, currently require some form of live-saving assistance.

The indiscriminate violence, said Mr. O’Brien, had left him “utterly appalled” by the lack of protection of civilians by all parties.To this day, in fact, the fighting in Yemen has taken a heavy toll on civilians, more than 1,895 of whom have been killed since March.

“What we need is peace,” he added. “The dialogue of weapons needs to be replaced by the dialogue of words. There is no military solution to this conflict.”

However, with only 18 per cent of the $1.6 billion humanitarian appeal for Yemen currently funded, the OCHA chief also warned that relief efforts were at risk of being “hampered” due to a sharp reduction in resources.

“Donors have not responded with the funding that is needed to cover the enormous humanitarian needs in the country,” he continued. “Donors need to show their solidarity with the Yemeni people and provide us with timely funding to cover the enormous needs in the whole country and notably cities like Aden, that have suffered so badly during the last four months.”