A United Nations pledging conference for Yemen is seeking record amounts of money to provide life-saving aid for some 19 million of the most destitute people struggling to survive nearly four years of civil war. The U.N. is hoping for a good response to the four-point-two billion-dollar appeal it issued for Yemen in December.

The U.N. reports 80 percent of Yemen’s population, or 24 million people, need humanitarian aid and protection. It warns famine is stalking nearly 10 million people, while millions of others are unable to feed themselves and their families.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who convened the pledging conference, is appealing to international donors to respond generously to what he calls “a crisis of devastating proportions.”

FILE - Children displaced from the Red Sea port city of Hodeida stand in thei
FILE – Children displaced from the Red Sea port city of Hodeida stand in their shelter in Sana’a, Yemen, Nov. 1, 2018.

He noted that tens of thousands of people have been killed or injured since the conflict escalated in March 2015. That is when the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign against the Houthi rebels in support of the Yemeni government.

As in all conflicts, Guterres said, children, who did not start the war, are paying the highest price.

“Some 360,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, fighting for their lives every day. One credible report put the number of children under five who have died of starvation at more than 80,000,” he said.

Guterres said more than three million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes, adding that nearly 20 million people lack adequate medical care because the health care system has largely collapsed. Some two million children are out of school, robbing them of a future.

Though aid agencies are chronically underfunded, Guterres noted whatever money is received is put to good use. For example, he said, aid agencies successfully stopped the spread of the 2017 cholera epidemic, the worst in the country’s history. He also said the World Food Program is feeding 8 million people a month.

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