Donor countries have pledged 1.1 billion dollars to aid the population in Yemen, UN chief Antonio Guterres said Tuesday at the end of a humanitarian conference to shore up funds for the war-ravaged country.
The UN secretary general warned at the meeting in Geneva that the world's largest hunger crisis could turn into a humanitarian catastrophe.
"We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation. We must act now to save lives," Guterres said.
The sum that has now been pledged accounts for more than half of the 2.1 billion dollars that UN agencies asked for to help the poorest country on the Arabian peninsula this year.
Guterres said he was optimistic that the remaining half will be donated by December.
Before the start of the conference, only 15 percent of the needed total had been received.
The war that is now in its third year has left 17 million of the country's 27 million people at risk of hunger.
On average, one child under the age of 5 dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes in Yemen.
Yemen's conflict has regional and religious dimensions, pitting the Saudi-backed government against Iran-allied rebels who seized the capital Sana'a and surrounding areas in late 2014.
The war has intensified since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and fellow Sunni Muslim countries began an air campaign against the rebels who follow the Shia Muslim tradition that is also Iran's state religion.
Even before the conflict escalated, Yemenis suffered.
"Fear, famine, poverty, cries of children [...] are not new," Yemen's Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid said in Geneva.
Two years on, 18.8 million Yemenis need humanitarian aid.
A large part of the country's infrastructure, including schools and health facilities have been destroyed by the war.
Less than half of Yemen's clinics are fully functioning, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
"Conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure and cancer are killing more people than bullets and bombs," WHO Director General Margaret Chan said.
Several donors increased their previous pledges by millions of dollars.
The United States offered another 94 million dollars for a new total of 526 million dollars, while the European Union said it would release another 116 million euros (123 million dollars).
Germany increased its 2017 aid budget for Yemen to 50 million euros, 17 million euros more than its previous pledge.
Obeid thanked donor countries for boosting aid funds, but he stressed that ending the war would allow his country to rebuild itself.
"Peace is the shortest route to putting an end to this suffering," he said.
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