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Yemen: World Bank gives $150m to projects amid aid shortfall

Funds will go towards providing essential health and nutrition services to nearly four million Yemenis
People displaced by the conflict receive food aid in the Tuhayta district of the war-ravaged western province of Hodeidah on 30 June, 2021 (AFP)

The World Bank will give Yemen $150m in grants for health, nutrition and sanitation projects, helping address the funding shortfall facing the war-torn country.

Yemen was already the poorest country in the World Bank's Middle East and North Africa region before war broke out more than six years ago, plunging the country into what the United Nations describes as the world's largest humanitarian crisis.

Yemen aid programmes may close if donors fail to meet funding pledges, US warns
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A serious gap in funding for aid appeared last year. 

More funds have started flowing since April, after UN officials said Yemen was set to face the world's worst famine in decades, but aid groups say the humanitarian operation still does not have enough cash to see out 2021.

Tania Meyer, the World Bank's Yemen country head, said: "The project will provide much needed emergency funds to help deliver quality healthcare for the poorest and most vulnerable, including those living in remote areas." 

The World Bank's Yemen Emergency Human Capital Project (YEHCP) works with UN agencies and Yemen's local authorities. 

The fund will go towards providing essential health and nutrition services to 3.65 million Yemenis, water and sanitation services for another 850,000, and training 3,000 health workers, AFP reported.

'Lack of basic infrastructure'

Yemen's conflict flared in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention to prop up the government the following year. 

The World Bank said the death toll had reached 233,000 by the end of last year, "with half the deaths caused by a lack of food or access to healthcare, as well as by the lack of basic infrastructure to provide these services".

The war has displaced millions of people and left the country on the brink of famine, with some 80 percent of Yemenis now dependent on aid.

"Out of a total population of about 29 million, about 20 million Yemenis are food insecure and at risk of malnutrition, with two-thirds unable to afford enough food and water and sanitation services," the World Bank said in a statement after announcing the grants. "Over four million people have fled their homes." 

The United States last week called on the international community, especially Yemen's neighbours, to fulfil pledges to increase humanitarian funding, warning that aid programmes could otherwise be forced to close.

Yemen's $3.85bn 2021 humanitarian response plan stood at only 43 percent funded earlier this month, Reuters reported.

'Famine of biblical proportions'

On Wednesday, Yemen was among several countries highlighted by the head of the UN's World Food Programme (WFP), who said that it would face an "unprecedented famine of biblical proportions" if further action was not taken to address food shortages.

The WFP, which won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for its work, is appealing for $6bn to help 41 million people it says are on the edge of famine in 43 countries.

Speaking at a G20 event on humanitarian aid in Brindisi, Italy, WFP chief David Beasley said: "These are not just numbers, these are not just statistics, these are people with real names, real lives, fragile and literally on the brink of starvation.

"If we don't address their needs, over the next six to nine months you could have unprecedented famine of biblical proportions, destabilisation of nations and mass migration. 

"The simple solution is we need more support," Beasley told a joint press conference with Luigi Di Maio, Italy's foreign minister.

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