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UN: Yemen faces 'serious risk of famine'

O'Brien last month said a Yemeni child under 10 is dying every 10 minutes [AFP]

Date of publication: 28 February, 2017

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War-ravaged Yemen faces a “serious risk of famine” unless international donors step up their response, the UN’s humanitarian aid chief Stephen O'Brien warned Monday.

War-ravaged Yemen faces a “serious risk of famine” unless international donors step up their response, the UN’s humanitarian aid chief Stephen O'Brien warned Monday.

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 the conflict.

O'Brien, who was to meet later in Sanaa with Houthi 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.

Last month, O’Brien sounded the alarm over the plight of Yemeni children with 2.2 million infants now suffering from acute malnourishment – an increase of 53 percent from late 2015.

"Overall, the plight of children remains grim: a child under the age of 10 dying every 10 minutes of preventable causes," O'Brien said in late January.

Yemen’s war pits Hadi's internationally recognised government against Houthi 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 Houthis seized Sanaa the previous September.

About 10,000 civilians have died in the war, according to UN officials.

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