Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
Many of you have highlighted the grim statistics of human suffering in Yemen in your speeches today.
Last year, when I travelled to Yemen and visited some of the 155 nutrition centres and health facilities, supported by Islamic Relief, I met the people behind these numbers – children too weak from hunger to cry and mothers so malnourished they could not produce enough milk to breastfeed.
I am still haunted by their faces. But I take comfort in knowing that our staff, standing alongside colleagues from other NGOs, are working round the clock to provide exceptional humanitarian relief to millions of Yemenis across the north and south.
Working with the WFP, Islamic Relief has been providing food, vouchers and cash-for-work programmes to over 2 million Yemenis, on a monthly basis. To support the crippled economy and people who have no social safety net to fall back on, we are also still running livelihoods programmes, in Sana’a and Hodeida in the north and Dhammar in the south.
This is clear evidence that essential humanitarian relief is still reaching the most vulnerable. Despite the staggering need, however, funding cuts are severely threatening these key lifelines being provided by international aid organisations and local civic society groups.
As food prices soar, our funding support has been slashed significantly. This means that one food package, designed to last one family one month, will now have to last them around two. With 15 million people already on the brink of starvation, there can only be one result of this decrease – many may lose their lives. In 2020, we’re again stepping up and committing to spend at least 5 million USD of our own funds to boost the response on the ground, but this is only a fraction of what is needed, with international donors the only ones capable of filling the gap.
COVID-19 is only making things worse. Millions of Yemenis – especially those displaced – rely on work which will vanish under stricter lockdown measures. Remittances are drying up plunging families into absolute poverty. In the wake of the pandemic this could create just as much, if not more, suffering than Covid-19 itself. While the virus is deadly, it must not be allowed to divert attention or dilute funds from the existing humanitarian response.
COVID-19 support, should be in addition to not in place of existing funding and priority must be given to critical life-saving activities such as food distributions, cash assistance, nutrition and health support as well as water, sanitation, hygiene awareness and protection.
To meet this growing threat, I can only reiterate the urgent message from INGOs and local civil society actors: the international community must provide increased funding for humanitarian programming in Yemen.
Until we redouble our efforts to bring an end to this conflict and secure a long-lasting and sustainable peace, we must support the humanitarian needs of the Yemeni people. The only bailout package they may get is you.
Thank you very much.