Jan 17, 2:21 PM EST

$2 billion in aid sought for hardest-hit in Yemen civil war


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$2 billion in aid sought for hardest-hit in Yemen civil war

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AMMAN, Jordan (AP) -- About $2 billion in urgent aid is needed this year to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable victims of Yemen's civil war, or about 10 million of the country's 27 million people, the resident U.N. humanitarian chief said Tuesday.

The Arab world's poorest country has been in the grip of a civil war since 2014, when Shiite Houthi rebels and allied forces swept down from the north and captured the capital, Sanaa. A Saudi-led coalition has been helping government forces battle the rebels for nearly two years.

"Yemen faces a dramatically bad future" without the needed aid, Jamie McGoldrick, head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, told The Associated Press.

Last year's appeal for $1.8 billion in aid for Yemen's most vulnerable, then about 8.6 million people, was only 60 percent funded, he said.

"I don't think this is enough, given that Yemen is a very critical emergency on the global stage," he said in an interview in Jordan. "I don't think it has gotten the (appropriate) attention. It has almost been a secret, a hidden emergency, and I think that is unfortunate, it's unfair."

McGoldrick said the Yemen aid appeal for 2017 will be launched early next month in Geneva.

Meanwhile, his agency is trying to get a better estimate of how many have died as a result of the conflict, both directly and indirectly, he said.

On Monday, McGoldrick told a news conference in Yemen that the civilian death toll of the war has reached 10,000.

He said Tuesday that he believes even this estimate is low.

McGoldrick said a previous figure of 7,400 deaths was based on reporting from the health facilities that still function in Yemen, or about half the number that operated before the war. As a result, data collection has been incomplete, he said.

"When you speak to activists and you speak to others on the ground, they say that even the figures we quoted yesterday (Monday) are far underreporting" the death toll, he added.

In addition, many more are indirect victims of the conflict, including those who suffer from chronic diseases, including high blood pressure and diabetes, and are unable to get treatment, McGoldrick said. For example, a cancer clinic in Sanaa that used to treat 30,000 patients has closed, he said. Inevitably, those suffering from chronic disease "will die sooner than they should," he said.

He also noted that more than 400,000 children under the age of five suffer from malnutrition, raising serious concern about their development and Yemen's future.

In fighting Tuesday, a rocket fired by Houthi rebels killed six civilians, including women and children, when it hit an area in the southern Taiz province, security officials said. The strike that also destroyed three old houses was part of broader fighting around the central city, Yemen's cultural capital.

Clashes between rebels and forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi have killed 23 Houthis and 17 troops over the past two days, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

A Saudi-led coalition has waged an extensive air campaign since March 2015 aimed at restoring Hadi's government. The northern region remains under Houthi control.

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Associated Press writer Ahmed al-Haj in Sanaa, Yemen, contributed reporting.

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