U.S. senators press Biden administration for new Yemen donor conference


WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of U.S. senators pressed the State Department on Tuesday to push international donors to address a $2.5 billion shortfall in assistance to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Their move underscored continuing concern in Congress about the effects of Arabian Peninsula country's civil war.

"Today, nearly 50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions with 5 million more just a step away. Unlike in 2018, the international community has so far mostly failed to rise to the challenge and provide the robust funding needed to stave off this catastrophe," the senators wrote in a letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and seen by Reuters.

The letter noted that the United Nations' $3.4 billion appeal in 2020 was only 50% funded, and its $4.2 billion appeal was 87% funded in 2019. And this year, just 34% of the appeal has been fulfilled, said the letter, from Democrats Chris Murphy and Jeanne Shaheen and Republicans Todd Young and Jeff Moran.

Noting that Switzerland and Sweden, which lead the fundraising effort for Yemen, have called for another conference, they urged Blinken to rally major donors.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthi group ousted the country's government. The civil war has created what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, affecting millions of Yemeni civilians.

Since taking office in January, U.S. President Joe Biden has made Yemen a priority. He appointed Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to help revive stalled efforts to end the conflict.

Lenderking has just traveled to Saudi Arabia and Oman for talks with government officials about efforts to end the war. [L1N2MM00C]

U.S. lawmakers have repeatedly called for more action to ease the crisis and have opposed some military sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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