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UN Calls for $2.1 Billion in Emergency Aid for Yemen


People walk on the rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sana'a, Yemen, Feb. 2, 2017.

The United Nations has asked for $2.1 billion to help Yemen where millions of people are caught in a two-year-old civil war.

A Saudi Arabian-led coalition began bombing in the Middle Eastern country two years ago. The attacks are in support of the Yemeni government as it battles against a group of rebels called Houthis.

U.N. officials said the air strikes have destroyed bridges, major roads, entire neighborhoods and a port. This has left millions of people without electricity, safe water or food.

Stephen O’Brien is the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator for the U.N. He said 18.8 million people, or two-thirds of Yemen’s population, need humanitarian aid.

“Immense human suffering is unfolding in front of our eyes...7.3 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from.”

O’Brien noted that he was shocked at how thin and sick-looking many of the people were when he last visited Yemen a few months ago.

“Children and youth were stunted and severely malnourished, barely holding onto their lives. And that was five months ago. Since then, the situation in Yemen has just simply got worse.”

The U.N. humanitarian chief warned that current humanitarian efforts are not enough. He said without immediate action, “famine is now a real possibility for 2017.”

Jamie McGoldrick has been the U.N.’s humanitarian aid coordinator for Yemen since December 2015. He has watched the situation take place and says Yemeni people must make difficult choices to survive.

“And so what you have is people having to make life and death decisions. 'Do you feed your child or your children or do you pay for medical treatment for the sick child?' And that is a daily call for many families.”

Historically, Yemen has been one of the poorest countries in the world. McGoldrick said the two-year-long civil war has weakened the country’s communities. He said people had so little money they were unable to pay to travel to feeding centers or hospitals where they could find help.

The U.N. official said about 7,500 people have been killed and 40,000 injured since the war began. He added that these numbers cannot be confirmed because “people die at home and are buried before they are ever recorded.”

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Lisa Schlein reported this story for VOA. Pete Musto adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor. We want to hear from you. How do you think you can help the people in Yemen? What possible solutions do you see for this conflict? Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.

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Words in This Story

air strike(s) – n. an attack in which military airplanes drop bombs

neighborhood(s) – n. a section of a town or city

humanitarianadj. related to to making other people's lives better

reliefn. things such as food, money, or medicine that are given to help people who are victims of a war or natural disasters

coordinatorn. a person who organizes people or groups so that they work together properly and well

stuntedadj. stopped from growing or developing

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