UN warns of looming famine in Yemen

UN warns of looming famine in Yemen
By Catherine Hardy  with Reuters

A senior humanitarian official is urging both sides in Yemen's civil war to allow more access to the country's ports to let much-needed food, fuel and medicines in.

Seven million people don't know where their next meal is coming from and we now face a serious risk of famine

Stephen O'Brien OCHA

A senior UN aid official has urged both sides in Yemen’s civil war to allow more access to the country’s ports to let food, fuel and medicines in.

Stephen O’Brien said Yemenis themselves have to ensure that aid from international donors is reaching the estimated seven million people now facing severe food shortages.

O’Brien, who is the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator, warned of a looming famine if their needs are not met.

He has met with the Houthi movement in the capital, Sanaa.

He was planning to visit the flash point city of Taiz on Tuesday, but UN sources say his convoy turned back due to security concerns.

In tweets

Why is the situation so bad?

Because of Yemen’s civil war.

The country has been divided by nearly two years of conflict, pitting the Iran-allied Houthi group against a Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

Fighting in or near ports hampers access for aid coming from outside.

The numbers (from the UN):

  • 3.3 million people Yemenis acutely malnourished
  • 2.1 million children among them
  • 460,000 children under five and at risk of mortality

  • The situation at the ports

    Earlier this month, the UN said Saudi-led coalition air strikes on the port of Hodeidah had hampered humanitarian operations to import vital food and fuel supplies.

    Hodeidah serves territory controlled by the Houthis.

    Five cranes have been destroyed. This means dozens of ships are having to lie offshore as they cannot be unloaded.

    What is the UN asking for?

    2.1 billion US dollars to provide food and other live-saving aid.

    The organisation says Yemen’s economy and institutions are collapsing and its infrastructure has been devastated.

    Only $90 million of funding has been recieved so far out of $5.6 billion needed this year alone for humanitarian operations in Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, according to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

    What are other aid organisations saying?

    That the “lifeline” of aid moving through the port, as well as others like it, is starting to be cut as the conflict moves north up the Red Sea coast.

    There is concern about the fate of an estimated 500,000 people in Hodeidah.

    “In terms of reserves, there is enough for two, three or four months. There is an urgent need for re-supply,” International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) regional director Robert Mardini told reporters in Geneva.

    What they are saying

    “The international community needs to step up its funding and the parties to the conflict need to continue providing humanitarian access. This also means access to the ports so that the needed imports can enter Yemen,” Stephen O’Brien told reporters on a visit to Aden.

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