UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien warned Monday in Yemen that the war-torn and impoverished country faces “serious risk of famine” unless international donors step up their response.
The under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, speaking in the southern city of Aden where he met President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, also urged both sides in Yemen’s two-year-old war to grant humanitarian access to the conflict zones.
“We now face a serious risk of famine if the international community doesn’t step up with funding and respond and the parties in the conflict continue to restrict humanitarian access,” said O’Brien, who flew in on Sunday.
He told a news conference that 19 million of Yemen’s 26-million population now needed humanitarian aid, and “seven million Yemenis don’t know where their next meal is coming from”.
The United Nations has called for $2.1 billion in humanitarian aid for Yemen, where UN mediation and seven ceasefire accords have failed to end a conflict that O’Brien said has cost more than 7,500 lives and left 40,000 people wounded.
O’Brien, who was to meet later in Sanaa with Shiite Huthi rebels who control the capital, appealed for the warring parties “to facilitate commercial imports of food, fuel and medicine from all ports and a resumption of commercial flights” to import-dependent Yemen.
The war pits Hadi’s internationally recognised government against Huthi rebels allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The fighting has intensified since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in support of Hadi in March 2015 after the Huthis seized Sanaa the previous September. – AFP