Catastrophic impact of cuts to funding already being felt
Donors have given the equivalent of 25 US cents (20p Sterling) per day for each of the 24.3 million people in need in Yemen, about half the amount given last year, Oxfam warned today, less than two weeks since world leaders warned that Yemen once again stands at the brink of famine.
The dramatic cut comes despite COVID-19 heaping further challenges on a country already suffering the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
More than a third of the UN’s humanitarian programmes have already been cut back, with some completely shut down between April and August due to the funding shortage. Cuts include a reduction in services at 300 health centres and in food distributions across the country.
In Yemen, 25 cents would buy 200 grams of kidney beans, or three eggs, or 200 millilitres of cooking oil, according to the latest available market data, from July. In 2019 donors gave the equivalent of 46 cents per person each day.
The destruction of homes and basic infrastructure, rising food prices, a lack of jobs and continuous cuts to public servants’ salaries during the five years of conflict have combined to deprive Yemenis of the essentials, including food, clean water and healthcare. This has forced millions to rely on humanitarian aid in order to survive.
Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, said: “While the economic fallout unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic has affected every corner of the globe, in Yemen millions are on the brink of starvation. Yemenis cannot afford aid to be cut, people need more help to survive, not less.
“Yemenis had already suffered the hardships of more than five years of conflict before the pandemic wreaked further havoc, leaving them acutely vulnerable to disease and hunger. The international community urgently needs to step up funding for Yemen as well as honouring the pledges already made so that people can get the lifesaving aid they need.”
In real terms, the impact of the cut in aid is likely to be even greater than it appears because a depreciation in the Yemeni Rial has pushed up prices beyond the reach of millions. The price of flour has risen 22 per cent in the last year, onions by 35 per cent and sugar by 48 per cent.
So far this year, donors have given a total of only $1.6bn, of which $1.28bn has been channeled through the UN’s official humanitarian response. This is just 40 per cent of what the UN says is needed to supply clean water, food shelter and medicine. Donors gave a total of $4.06bn last year and $5.17bn in 2018.
Almost all donors have given substantially less money this year, including four of the biggest– the US, UK, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Since 2018, the number of people in need in Yemen has risen from 22.2 million to 24.3 million.
Since the escalation of the conflict in Yemen in March 2015, the UK has licensed almost £6.4bn worth of arms to members of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition which is backing the internationally recognised governments in Yemen.
Siddiquey said: “The UK should stop cashing in on this appalling humanitarian crisis and instead put people’s lives above arms manufacturers’ profit. The Yemenis who’ve had to flee their homes, go without food and clean water, and endure outbreaks of disease need a nationwide ceasefire and inclusive peace talks to end to this war so they can rebuild their lives.”
Notes to editors
Donations to fund the humanitarian response in Yemen are registered by the UN’s Financial Tracking Service. Daily amounts were calculated using the total amount donated to Yemen in 2019 and 2020 (both inside and outside the Humanitarian Response Plan) and the UN’s total number of people in need. Only recorded commitments have been included in this analysis; pledges have not been accounted for, and nor has funding that has not been recorded by the Financial Tracking Service. The figure for 2020 was calculated up to and including 21st September 2020.
Some of the money received from donors is given directly to people in the form of cash transfers, vouchers, and cash-for-work projects. Some is spent on projects like the rehabilitation of water sources that aim to directly or indirectly provide services to whole communities. The UN and NGOs will also incur operational and support costs.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation reported market data for Yemen in July.