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3.5m more Yemenis close to brink of famine: UN

A Yemeni child plays on used car tyres as aid arrives in Hodeida [Getty]

Date of publication: 22 September, 2018

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Already eight million of Yemen's 28 million population is on the brink of famine in what the UN calls the "world's worst humanitarian crisis".
Three-and-a-half million people in Yemen may soon be added to the already eight million who are on the brink of famine there, the UN's aid chief warned late on Friday.
A sharp drop in the value of Yemen's currency as well as renewed fighting, particularly around the port city of Hodeida through which 70 percent of imports flow, has led to a worsening crisis of what the UN already considers the world's worst humanitarian crisis. 

"We are losing the fight against famine," Mark Lowcock, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, told the Security Council.

"We are already seeing pockets of famine-like-conditions, including cases where people are eating leaves because they have no other form of sustenance," he said.

The council was meeting at Britain's request to discuss the worsening crisis in Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition is fighting the Iran-backed Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa and much of the country.

Lowcock said the situation had deteriorated "in an alarming way in recent weeks" and that the crisis may be approaching "a tipping point, beyond which it will be impossible to prevent massive loss of life".

The stark warning came ahead of next week's gathering of world leaders at the UN for the annual debate on global issues that will feature meetings on Yemen.

After a lull in fighting, Saudi-backed government forces this week launched a series of attacks on Hodeida, which also serves as the entry point for humanitarian aid deliveries.

The fight for Hodeida, which the Houthis seized in 2014, was put on hold for 11 weeks as the UN struggled to bring warring parties to peace talks in Geneva.

But the talks collapsed earlier this month after the northern Yemeni rebels refused to attend over guarantees they would be granted re-entry to Hodeida. 

Three quarters of Yemen's population - or 22 million people - are in need of humanitarian aid, including eight million who need food relief to survive.

Lowcock called for council support for immediate measures to stabilise the economy, support the exchange rate and keep all ports and main roads open.

"The lifeline through which the aid operation runs now hangs by a thread," he said.

The Saudi-led alliance intervened in the Yemen conflict in 2015 in a bid to bolster embattled Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, whose government is recognised by the UN, in his war against the Houthi rebels.

Nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the war.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch said on Friday that Saudi Arabia's efforts to shut down a UN-backed war crimes investigation in Yemen is a "blatant attempt to avoid scrutinity" of its conduct in the country.

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