Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen, having pledged $18 billion to the country over the past six years, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) has said.
Adviser at the Royal Court and Supervisor General of KSrelief, Dr. Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabeeah, said the Kingdom has provided $848 million in the past year alone to provide urgent financial assistance to Yemen, home to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, state news agency SPA reported Thursday.
Dr al-Rabeeah’s words came during a high-level UN meeting co-hosted by Sweden, Switzerland and the European Union, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
He explained that the Yemeni people have faced major humanitarian crises over the past decades, exacerbated by the conflicts erupting in the country.
Although donor countries have provided billions of dollars over the past six years to mitigate the effects of humanitarian crises in Yemen, organizations are still facing several obstacles and challenges – including the ongoing violations committed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia which prevent the delivery of aid to the beneficiaries.
He also expressed his regret that children and women are the most affected by these violations, which limit their access to food and necessary medical supplies.
As an extension of the Kingdom’s humanitarian stances and its continuous support for Yemen, through KSrelief and in coordination with the United Nations and international and local non-governmental organizations, the projects will continue to be implemented in Yemen during the remainder of 2021, which are estimated at $90 million, he added.
He said that financial donations alone will not alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and that it is no secret that the ongoing aggression being carried out by Houthi militias against UN organizations and international non-governmental organizations deepens the suffering of the Yemeni people, especially in the areas that they control.
UN, agencies warn vital aid lack funding
It came as international donors pledged an additional $600 million to tackle Yemen’s crisis on Wednesday, as the United Nations and other aid agencies warned that vital aid programs would be cut this year without more funding.
This year’s $3.85 billion aid response plan to what the UN describes as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis had been only half funded before Wednesday’s high-level UN meeting.
A significant gap in funding for the aid response in Yemen, which has been divided by seven years of war, opened up last year, forcing some aid programs to close and the UN to warn of increasing risk of famine.
In response more funds were given earlier this year to food programs, but this left other sectors such as sanitation and protection severely underfunded.
“This has helped push back famine and pull people back from the brink of despair,” Martin Griffiths - the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator and former Yemen envoy - told the meeting.
Significant additional pledges on Wednesday included $291 million from the US, $100 million from Qatar, and $90 million from Saudi Arabia.
A child dies every ten minutes in Yemen, 2.3 million children are acutely malnourished and 400,000 are at imminent risk of death from severe acute malnutrition, the head of the UN children’s agency UNICEF said.
The UN meeting called on donors to urgently disburse existing pledges to make additional contributions and to distribute funds across all aid sectors.
Ninety-eight percent of pledges made earlier this year have been fulfilled, taking funds disbursed so far to just over $2 billion, said Griffiths.
King Salman address UN General Assembly
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz made his first address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying that the Kingdom is one of the founding members of the UN, and it has been committed to its purposes and principles, which aim to maintain international peace and security, resolve conflicts peacefully, respect sovereignty and independence, and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries.
King Salman added that the peace initiative in Yemen, which Saudi Arabia presented last March, can end the conflict, sparing blood and putting an end to the suffering of the brotherly Yemeni people.
“Unfortunately, the terrorist Houthi militias still refuse peaceful solutions, and are betting on the military option to control more lands in Yemen,” the King added.
King Salman said that the Iran-backed Houthi militias use the suffering of the Yemeni people, their urgent need for humanitarian assistance, and the risks resulting from the deterioration of the situation, as bargaining chips and blackmail, and attack daily on civilian objects inside the Kingdom, and threaten international navigation and international energy supplies.