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Saudi Arabia, UN raise 1.35 billion dollars at Yemen donor conference

A donors conference for Yemen, hosted by the United Nations and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, has raised about 1.35 billion dollars, almost half the amount raised at a similar conference last year.

A donors conference for Yemen, hosted by the United Nations and Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, has raised about 1.35 billion dollars, almost half the amount raised at a similar conference last year.

“The UN will continue its fundraising efforts, this is not the end,” UN emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock said as he announced the total pledges at the end of the conference held online.

He urged countries to pay the funds immediately, since “pledges on their own achieve nothing.”

Lowcock added that several major countries, which contributed to last year’s conference, failed to make pledges this year.

Saudi Arabia, a main player in the war, has pledged 500 million dollars in aid to support a UN Humanitarian Response Plan for Yemen.

Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabeeah, the supervisor of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre, said he was pleased by the level of attendance, despite the lower than expected pledges.

The conference aimed at raising 2.4 billion dollars to keep aid flowing to Yemen.

Al-Rabeeah said the amount raised is a “good response” taking in consideration the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis resulting from it.

Saudi Arabia is leading an alliance to fight the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015.

The war has pushed Yemen, already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, to the verge of famine and devastated its health facilities.

“Unless we secure significant funding, more than 30 out of 41 major United Nations programmes in Yemen will close in the next few weeks,’ UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the videoconference.

Aid agencies “are in a race against time” in Yemen, he said, noting reports indicating that mortality rates from Covid-19 in Aden, the temporary seat of the Yemeni government, are among the highest in the world.

“Tackling Covid-19 on top of the existing humanitarian emergency requires urgent action. The pandemic is making it even more difficult and dangerous for humanitarian workers to reach Yemenis with life-saving aid,” he said.

Yemen has so far confirmed a total of 354 infections and 84 deaths from the coronavirus.

Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), said Tuesday’s pledges still fall “far short of what is needed” to alleviate the suffering of millions of Yemeni people “staring down the double barrel of starvation and a global pandemic.”

“But money alone is not enough. These pledges are worth little if people are still fleeing from bombs and crossfire and their hospitals attacked,” Egeland said in a statement, urging all rival parties to lay down their weapons.

Yemen has been in the grip of a devastating power struggle since the Houthi rebels took over the capital, Sana’a, and other cities late in 2014.

The Houthis’ advance on the Saudi-backed Yemeni government seat of Aden prompted Saudi Arabia to form the coalition months later and start an air campaign against the rebel group.

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