Solidarity with famine-struck Yemen: Geneva donor conference pledges over CHF 1 billion for humanitarian assistance

Bern, 25.04.2017 - “We are mobilising humanitarian assistance for the people of Yemen and telling them loud and clear that they have not been forgotten”, said the head of the FDFA at the beginning of the donor conference in Geneva. At the conference organised by the United Nations, Switzerland and Sweden, CHF 1.1 billion was pledged to alleviate the suffering of the people of Yemen. These funds are urgently needed because Yemen is currently experiencing the biggest famine worldwide.

The donor conference drew more than 500 hundred participants, including delegations headed by ministerial-level officials, representatives of international organisations, non-governmental organisations and regional organisations, and delegates representing 73 states. The conference was organised by Switzerland and Sweden, together with the UN Coordination Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), at the behest of the UN.  It was hosted by the Secretary-General of the UN, António Guterres, the head of the Swiss delegation, Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter, and Sweden's Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström.

There is an urgent need for action in Yemen. The humanitarian action plan for Yemen estimated that USD 2.1 billion was needed to meet the urgent need for food, medicine and other necessities. Although the famine engulfing Yemen is currently among the biggest crises worldwide, only 8% of this amount had been secured by the beginning of April.  Some 18.8 million people depend directly on humanitarian aid, and 17 million face an immediate risk of starvation. The aim of the donor conference in Geneva was to raise funds to respond to the UN call for urgent humanitarian aid in 2017. As a result, the delegations pledged sums in the amount of CHF 1.1 billion to alleviate the suffering of the people of Yemen. Switzerland is increasing its contribution for 2017 by 50% to CHF 14 million. These funds will primarily be used for projects of the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the areas of water, food and protection of the civilian population. A sum of CHF 41 million has been allocated to implement Switzerland’s cooperation strategy for Yemen in the 2017–20 period.

Because the crisis in Yemen is largely man-made, in his speech Mr Burkhalter emphasised the underlying reasons of the humanitarian emergency and called on all parties to comply with international humanitarian law and to protect the civilian population and civilian facilities such as schools and hospitals. He also called for humanitarian organisations to be given unhindered access to the people in need in Yemen. Lastly, he demanded an end to the fighting as a first step towards the resumption of peace talks.  “We need a lasting cessation of hostilities,” he said.  “There is an urgent need for humanitarian assistance, but humanitarian assistance cannot be a substitute for a political solution in Yemen.”

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