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NEW YORK, Feb 19 -- United Nations (UN) Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affair Mark Lowcock warned Thursday that Yemen is speeding toward the worst famine the world has seen in decades.
Malnutrition rates are at record highs. Across Yemen, more than 16 million people are going hungry, including five million who are just one step away from famine, reports Xinhua news agency quoted Lowcock as saying in a Security Council’s briefing.
About 400,000 children under the age of 5 are severely malnourished. Those children are in their last weeks and months. These are the children with distended bellies, emaciated limbs and blank stares -- they are starving to death, he said.
The lack of funds for humanitarian operations in 2020 has led to the closure of many aid programmes, said Lowcock. As a result, many hungry families in the north are getting only half as much food aid as they should. The UN had to close lots of facilities providing water, sanitation and health services.
Many more are under threat of closure because agencies cannot afford to continue the support that keeps them running.
The UN response plan for 2020 received about US$1.9 billion, half of the funds it got the previous year, he said.
This year's response plan will need about US$4 billion, roughly the same appeal for 2019. Donors met nearly 90 per cent of funding requirements for 2019 and the UN managed to prevent famine in Yemen, said Lowcock.
He called for generous donations at next month's high-level pledging conference for Yemen.