Countries around the world pledged over $1 billion to avert a looming famine crisis in war-torn Yemen, but pledges fell short of the $2.1 billion needed for this year.

UN says Yemen is gripped by "the world's largest hunger crisis".
UN says Yemen is gripped by "the world's largest hunger crisis".

Donor countries have pledged nearly $1.1 billion for humanitarian aid to Yemen, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at the end of a one-day pledging conference in Geneva on Tuesday.

The UN has said it needs $2.1 billion this year to avert famine in Yemen, where a child dies every 10 minutes of hunger and disease.

Two years of conflict between Houthi rebels aligned with Iran and a Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition that carries out air strikes almost daily have killed at least 10,000 people in Yemen, and hunger and disease are rife there.

Nearly 19 million people or two-thirds of the population need emergency aid, Guterres said, renewing a call for peace talks and urging all parties to "facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian aid by air, sea and land".

We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now to save lives.

'Writhing with hunger'

Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Mubarek Bin-Dagher had urged donors to be generous, describing how some of his compatriots were "writhing with hunger".

"$2.1 billion is the minimum that we should plan on raising," he told the conference.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien meanwhile said that Yemen was "the world's largest humanitarian crisis today."

"We must do more and can do more," he said, insisting that "we can, with your money and support, scale up, we can avert famine and the worst catastrophe."

But O'Brien underlined that humanitarian aid alone would not resolve Yemen's crisis.

We need an immediate cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiations and peace.

'50 children will die'

The conflict has dramatically deepened Yemen's drawn-out humanitarian crisis, with a full 19 millions people — two-thirds of the population — now in need of humanitarian aid, the UN said.

A total of 17 million of them are going hungry, including more than two million children currently considered acutely malnourished.

UN Secretary-General Guterres said it was vital to act quickly.

"On average, a child under the age of five dies of preventable causes in Yemen every 10 minutes," Guterres said.

This means 50 children in Yemen will die during today's conference, and all those deaths could have been prevented.

Many of the children who survive "will be affected by stunting and poor health for their entire lives," he added.

Anthony Lake, head of the UN children's agency, urged the world to act immediately, warning that "these children cannot wait for an official famine to be declared."

Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom noted that with two million children out of school, there is a growing risk of recruitment by armed groups, while two-thirds of girls are married off before the age of 18.

"We must act now", she said.

TRT World's Abubakr al Shamahi has more on the plight of those living in Yemen.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies