UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said a "disappointing" $1.7 billion had been pledged by countries on Monday for humanitarian aid in Yemen - less than half the $3.85 billion the world body was seeking for 2021 to avert a large-scale famine.
"For most people, life in Yemen is now unbearable. Childhood in Yemen is a special kind of hell. Yemeni children are starving," Guterres said as he opened the pledging conference. After it concluded, he described the outcome as "disappointing" and warned in a statement: "Cutting aid is a death sentence."
Some 16 million Yemenis - more than half the population of the Arabian Peninsula country - are going hungry, the United Nations says. Of those, 5 million are on the brink of famine, UN aid chief Mark Lowcock has said.
"This does not solve the problem," Lowcock said after the pledging conference. "It's going to be impossible with such limited resources to prevent a large-scale famine."
Among the commitments on Monday were Saudi Arabia with $430 million, the United States with $191 million, the United Arab Emirates with $230 million and Germany with $240 million.
In 2018 and 2019, the United Nations prevented famine due to a well-funded aid appeal. In 2020 the world body only received just over half the $3.4 billion it needed.
More than six years of war in Yemen - widely seen as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran - have sent the impoverished country spiraling into what the United Nations describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
Some 80% of Yemenis need help, with 400,000 children under the age of 5 severely malnourished, according to UN data. For much of its food, the country relies on imports that have been badly disrupted over the years by all warring parties.
Despite promises from both sides to end the war, skirmishes on the ground continues yesterday.
A munition fired by Yemen's Huthi rebels wounded five civilians in a border village in southern Saudi Arabia, state media reported, the kingdom's latest casualties from cross-border fire.