The United Nations has received only $1 billion towards a requested $2.4 billion for emergency humanitarian aid work in Yemen for 2020, according to Al Jazeera.
This is less than a third of the $3.2 billion received the year before for humanitarian efforts in the country.
As a result, many of the UN’s critical relief programs have been shut down and more programs are at risk of disappearing in the weeks ahead. These closures are taking place even as the crisis in Yemen worsens amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing civil war.
Critical food supplies have been cut and health care services at more than 300 facilities have been reduced, Al Jazeera noted.
“It’s an impossible situation,” Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, told Al Jazeera. “This is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, yet we don’t have the resources we need to save the people who are suffering and will die if we don’t help.”
Some countries have pledged funds to the UN, but have failed to deliver. Saudi Arabia, for example, promised $500 million last year and hasn’t followed through, according to Devex.
The situation in Yemen has been consistently ranked the worst humanitarian crisis since the civil war broke out in 2014. The war has led to tens of thousands of civilian casualties, destroyed critical infrastructure throughout the country, hollowed out the economy, displaced millions of children from the classroom, and pushed millions of people deeper into poverty.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated these crises.
Yemen already has one of the highest death rates from COVID-19 in the world due to its fragile health care system and weakened immune systems across the country.
“The pandemic poses a terrifying threat to some of the most vulnerable people in the world, weakened by years of conflict and with a health system that is already on the brink of collapse,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in June.
Already, 20 million Yemenis struggle to get food and water every day, and 40% of the population could face starvation by the end of the year. These deprivations are compounded by the threat of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases such as cholera.
In recent years, the UN has been providing critical emergency aid — food delivery, health care, education, and more — to 10 million people per month, according to Devex.
These programs help to maintain a shred of stability in the country, shielding tens of millions of people from life-threatening poverty, allowing them to plan beyond day-to-day survival.
If the UN doesn’t receive more funds in the weeks ahead, thousands — and even millions — of Yemenis could face increased poverty and starvation in the months ahead.
“The consequences of underfunding are immediate, enormous, and devastating,” Grande told Al Jazeera. “Nearly every humanitarian worker has had to tell a hungry family or someone who is ill that we can’t help them because we don’t have funding.”