United Nations hosts aid-pledging conference for beleaguered Yemen

The UN secretary general, António Guterres, has said the UN has now been promised $1.1bn (£860m) - half the amount requested for the humanitarian appeal for Yemen, which is facing the world's largest hunger crisis and experiencing "a tragedy of enormous proportions", with a child dying every 10 minutes.

Guterres and top government officials from Switzerland and Sweden co-hosted a pledging conference in the Swiss city aimed at collecting at least $2.1 billion in a United Nations relief appeal that was launched this year.

Mutasim Hamdan, Yemen Country Director of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said:"The pledges made today mean the difference between life and death for millions of people". One child under the age of five dies of preventable causes every 10 minutes, he said.

"Some 17 million are food-insecure, making this the world's largest hunger crisis", Mr. Guterres said, highlighting a situation worsened by import restrictions and the destruction of port facilities.

In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition launched a military campaign to help the internationally recognised government regain control of territory lost to the Houthi rebels.

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"We are witnessing the starving and the crippling of an entire generation", the UN Secretary-General warned, saying that two-thirds of the population or almost 19 million people need emergency aid in Yemen.

"Our additional funding will help humanitarian agencies in the country that operate under extremely hard circumstances to continue delivering lifesaving aid to those in need".

A high-profile global pledging conference for Yemen will kick off in Geneva on Tuesday, as part of the Humanitarian Response Plan 2017, in the presence of Yemeni Prime Minister Ahmed Obeid bin Daghr. Kuwait's Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Al-Jarallah, who declared the financial allocation at the conference, indicated that the specialized fund was follow-up to a previous sum of $300 million allotted for the Yemeni people.

"Our humanitarian appeal for 2017 is $2.1 billion and only 15 percent has been met until the present moment", Guterres said in his opening remarks to the gathering.

A large-scale humanitarian crisis is now being observed in Yemen.

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"We must invest in education and protection before we lose an entire generation of psychologically scarred and uneducated children", Pritchard added. But Guterres praised the generosity of donor nations, pointing out that such conferences generally do not gather more than a third of the requested amount.

In February, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien told reporters about the extent of the crisis in the war-torn country of 25.6 million. We must act now to save lives.

On the other side are factions loyal to President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi - backed by a coalition of Gulf nations and others led by Saudi Arabia.

"Access is the key for the success of this pledging conference", he said, calling also for the necessary infrastructure to be allowed to operate in normal conditions and for goods to be imported and distributed.

The UN has repeatedly called on Yemen's warring parties to keep Hudaydah open, amid fears the Saudi-led coalition may be preparing an all-out assault on the port to try to deal the rebels a major blow.

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