Secretary General Guterres, Under Secretary Griffiths, Minister Forssell, and Minister Cassis: thank you for bringing us together, and for never losing sight of the millions of Yemeni women, children, and men experiencing one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
At a time when many serious challenges call for our time and attention, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains an issue where our collective action has – and can continue to – make a tremendous difference.
Our funding, together with the relative calm created by the UN-brokered truce, prevented 2.2 million Yemenis from falling into emergency levels of food insecurity, where people’s lives depend on urgent action. And it prevented tens of thousands of others from slipping into famine-level conditions.
In total, aid agencies helped reach 11 million people every month in 2022, about a third of all Yemenis. That’s millions of people with clean water to drink…a meal in their stomachs…roofs over their heads…access to basic health care, including reproductive care – in a country where pregnancy can be a death sentence, with a mother dying every two hours from complications from pregnancy and childbirth.
And yet, in the coming year, two-thirds of Yemen’s population – 21.6 million people – will need humanitarian assistance and protection. Over two million of them are children suffering from acute malnutrition.
Their lives depend, in no small part, on what we do.
We’ve seen what happens when aid is inadequate. Last year, funding gaps forced the UN to scale back or cut over half of its life-saving programs. In December, these shortfalls meant assistance programs could only meet 40 percent of the caloric needs of people requiring food assistance. To a child in need, there is nothing abstract about a reduction like that. It’s simply more intense hunger, or life-threatening malnutrition.
At the same time, Russia’s war of aggression on Ukraine continues to make Yemen’s food crisis worse. Before the war, Yemen imported half its food supply from Russia and Ukraine, and President Putin’s invasion has made that supply both more expensive and less reliable.
In 2022, the United States provided nearly $1.1 billion in humanitarian assistance to Yemen – the largest U.S. contribution to the country since the conflict began – bringing our total to nearly $5 billion. This week, we’re announcing hundreds of millions more in additional aid.
We encourage everyone – especially those in the region – to join us in giving generously. The UN is seeking to raise $4.3 billion to reach over 17 million of Yemen’s most vulnerable people.
And we cannot do it without the contributions of every country here.
We also know that a fully-funded humanitarian response is not enough to end this humanitarian crisis.
We must keep up our efforts to end restrictions on humanitarian operations, including “mah-raam” rules that force women, including female aid workers, to be accompanied by male guardians at all times, and which obstruct the delivery of life-saving assistance to millions.
We’ll keep working to support Yemen’s economy, including by helping stabilize its currency and restore basic services. The Houthi attacks on Yemen’s ports and international shipping seriously threaten Yemen’s exports, which are a lifeline for the Yemeni people – and they must end.
And we’ll continue our intensive diplomacy to achieve a lasting end to the conflict – because as long as the fighting goes on, so will the suffering. I’m grateful to UN Special Envoy Hans Grundberg, and to our Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, for their tireless work toward that goal.
Yemen now has one of the best opportunities for peace since the war began. The international community must do all we can to help end this war.
The scale of the challenge we face is daunting. But I urge everyone to keep our focus on the people we seek to help.
Mothers like Fareeda, who was 23 when her 11-month-old daughter began rapidly losing weight last summer, because her family did not have access to sufficient nutrition. Fareeda’s husband couldn’t work, one of their other children had a costly medical condition, and the family had no money to cover treatment for their little girl.
Fareeda was referred to Al Meeg-lof Therapeutic Center – which is supported by our assistance – where her daughter received immediate treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition.
After eight days, she had improved enough to go home, and now has a chance to be a healthy toddler – because of the international community’s support.
But for Fareeda and her family – and for millions of others – the worst is not yet over. Until Yemenis have reliable access to nutritious food, safe drinking water, and basic healthcare…until they can live in a land free of fighting…more hardship is all but certain.
Today, we have the opportunity to help Yemenis move toward a brighter, more stable future.
Let’s keep up the momentum. Let’s all strive to do more. Because for millions of Yemenis, our support is a matter of life-or-death.