UN food programme chief expects Yemen humanitarian fund launch within weeks

Multimillion-dollar Famine Relief Fund could plug funding gaps to avert the country's looming starvation crisis

Yemeni child Meshaal Mohammad, a four-year-old weighs nine kilogrammes due to acute malnutrition, sleeps in his father's lap at a camp for the internally displaced in Yemen's northern Hajjah province on March 2, 2021. Famine could become part of war-torn Yemen's "reality" in 2021, the UN warned, after a donor conference raising funds to keep millions from starvation fell short by over half.
The United Nations had sought Monday to raise $3.85 billion from more than 100 governments and donors, but only $1.7 billion was offered. / AFP / ESSA AHMED
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The head of the UN’s World Food Programme, David Beasley, on Friday said he expected a new multimillion-dollar fund, raised from private cash donations to help prevent Yemen’s looming famine, could come online within weeks.

Mr Beasley said he was working with Ripplewood Holdings chief executive Tim Collins to ensure that a “private foundation” valued at “hundreds of millions” of dollars could help feed hungry Yemenis and stay in line with global aid finance rules.

The Famine Relief Fund, first reported on by The New Humanitarian website, would help fill a wide funding gap for this year's UN Yemen appeal, but critics have raised concerns about the sources of funding, as well as how and when the cash will be spent.

“Tim [Collins] is working hard on a private foundation of funds. And so we know our teams have gone through the due diligence to make certain all the standards that we require on humanitarian principles were met,” said Mr Beasley.

“That’s moving in the right direction.

"And I think there should be an announcement, I hope, in the very near future, because as you know, as we all know, we’re hundreds of millions of dollars short of the needs financially inside Yemen.”

The UN and aid groups complained about the dismal results of a pledging conference on Yemen this month, which raised only $1.7 billion of the $3.85bn needed for a country on the brink of famine.

According to Mr Beasley, the fund, created by anonymous, wealthy private donors reportedly from the US, the Gulf and elsewhere, could help plug funding gaps to prevent Yemen’s looming starvation crisis.

“In anticipation of some of these monies, we’re moving internally some funds to go ahead and acquire commodities because we want to assist all the people … that's five million that are literally knocking on the door of famine,” said Mr Beasley.

“And I pray that those monies will come in because [otherwise] that'll be another crisis.”

After six years of conflict, more than 16 million Yemenis cannot put enough food on the table and about 50,000 already face famine-like conditions, the UN said. In all, 24 million Yemenis need aid to survive.

Fighting erupted in the Arab world's poorest nation in 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels seized Yemen's capital, Sanaa, and much of the country's population centres in the north.