Yemen's humanitarian crisis deepens as country ‘collapses’, Swedish minister says

International aid agencies have issued a warning that Yemen faces famine

Per Olsson Fridh, Sweden's Minister of International Development Co-operation and Humanitarian Affairs, at the Sweden Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Khushnum Bhandari / The National
Powered by automated translation

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is worsening and several parts of the country are “collapsing” following a shortfall in international funding for aid agencies, Sweden's Minister for International Development and Co-operation said on Saturday.

This year's $3.85 billion aid response plan to what the UN has described as the world's largest humanitarian crisis fell short by more than $2bn.

The lack of funds forced some agencies to end operations in the country amid conflict and warnings of famine.

“Yemen is collapsing under our watch and we have to act on it, we need to call for immediate humanitarian access,” Per Olsson Fridh told The National during a visit to Dubai.

“We need to push for humanitarian access and show that we have reached those in need, to convince donor countries to contribute financially."

UN figures show that about five million people in Yemen are facing starvation as war and drought push the country towards its worst famine in 40 years.

About 21 million people – three quarters of the country’s population – rely on aid.

“Yemen is, unfortunately, not the only huge humanitarian crisis that we have ... and the impacts of Covid-19 on economies had an impact,” Mr Fridh said.

During a donor conference for Yemen in March, "many countries were hesitant because they did not know how their economies would develop post-Covid, but we got a generous contribution from the UAE", Mr Fridh said.

The UAE has committed $230 million this year and $6.3bn throughout the conflict. Saudi Arabia said it has given more than $18bn since the conflict began.

Mr Fridh said there was an urgent need to increase international contributions to tackle the crisis.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is also exacerbated by problems including a collapsing economy and restricted access for humanitarian groups.

“There is no humanitarian solution to the crisis in Yemen, only a political one, and if the region and world community engages together then we have to find that political solution,” Mr Fridh said.

He said that was what Sweden was working on, underlining his country's long-held role as an advocate of peace around the world.

"We are consistently active in trying to find and mediate solutions in Yemen and we are also very active in trying to mobilise humanitarian funding, because in the absence of a political solution, it’s our responsibility to save lives in Yemen," Mr Fridh said.

The UN brokered an agreement between Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in December 2018 in Sweden.

The deal, known as the Stockholm Agreement, included agreements on a ceasefire, a troop withdrawal in the port city of Hodeidah, the opening of a humanitarian corridor and a prisoner swap.

The agreement has not yet been fully introduced.

"We are open and eager to play a mediating role, but the parties of this conflict, peace is in their hands, and that is something we urge both sides to consider and work towards," he said.

Updated: October 23, 2021, 3:20 PM