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Coronavirus: Saudi Arabia to host virtual Yemen donor conference on 2 June

Kingdom says conference to be held in partnership with UN, as Arab world's poorest country struggles with war, hunger and now pandemic
Houthi security man wearing protective mask and gloves disperses crowd in Yemeni capital Sanaa last week (AFP)

Saudi Arabia will host a donor conference to support Yemen on 2 June, state media reported on Sunday, as the conflict-torn country faces the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.

The virtual conference will be held in partnership with the United Nations, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, as the Arab world's poorest country also battles widespread hunger and disease.

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The kingdom, a top donor to Yemen since it led a 2015 military intervention backing the government against Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, did not say how much money was expected to be raised from the event, according to AFP.

The Saudi-led war has left tens of thousands of people dead, most of them civilians. The UN says about 24 million Yemenis - more than two thirds of the population - rely on some form of aid.

The SPA did not say for what purpose the conference was raising funds, but the announcement comes as aid organisations warn that a coronavirus outbreak could have dire consequences after six years of civil war in Yemen.

The Saudi-backed government has so far reported 34 cases of the novel coronavirus, with seven deaths in territory it controls; while the Houthis, who hold most large urban centres, have recorded just two cases with one death, Reuters said.

Still, the United Nations is operating under the assumption that there is now full-blown transmission in Yemen, it said.

Yemen's health-care system has been devastated by years of conflict that has driven millions from their homes and plunged the country into what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.