Video: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres asks for 2.41 billion U.S. dollars to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which remains the world's largest, as well as COVID-19. (Xinhua)

"But we need to do much more. This requires increased funding," Antonio Guterres emphasizes.

UNITED NATIONS, June 2 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday asked for 2.41 billion U.S. dollars to address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, which remains the world's largest, as well as COVID-19.

"Tackling COVID-19 on top of the existing humanitarian emergency requires urgent action. The pandemic is making it even more difficult and dangerous for humanitarian workers to reach Yemenis with life-saving aid," Guterres said during an online pledge conference for Yemen.

"We must preserve the major humanitarian aid operation that is already under way -- the world's largest -- while developing new public health programs to fight the virus and strengthen health care systems," he said, adding "we have already made a start, supporting rapid response teams across the country, procuring essential supplies, and working with front-line health workers and communities to get information out to millions of people."

"But we need to do much more. This requires increased funding," he emphasized.

A man wearing a face mask walks at a market amid the COVID-19 outbreak in Sanaa, Yemen, on May 31, 2020. (Photo by Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua)

So far this year, funds have not been forthcoming. Aid agencies estimate they will need up to 2.41 billion dollars to cover essential aid from June to December, including programs to counter COVID-19. More than 30 out of the 41 major UN aid programs in Yemen will have to close in the next few weeks unless there is extra funding, he said.

"I thank those donors who pledged funding ahead of today's event, and I urge all of you to pledge generously today, and to transfer pledged resources quickly. There is no time to lose," he added.

According to the UN report titled "Yemen: 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview," 80 percent of the Yemeni population, or some 24 million people, need life-saving aid, and 2 million Yemeni children are suffering from acute malnutrition.

Since the start of the year, some 80,000 more people have been forced from their homes, taking the total displaced population to almost 4 million, said Guterres.

In addition to COVID-19, cholera continues to threaten the lives of Yemenis, with 110,000 people contracting it so far this year, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of the Humanitarian Affairs. Meanwhile, the recent floods have raised the risk of malaria and Dengue fever, Guterres said. 

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