Fri, Oct 26, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Yemeni famine could be ‘one of worst’: UN

SENSE OF URGENCY:A top UN aid official told the UN Security Council that the country is in ‘clear and present danger’ of mass deaths from starvation

The Guardian

A father gives water to his malnourished daughter at a feeding center in a hospital in Hodeida, Yemen, on Sept. 27.

Photo: AP

Yemen is sliding fast toward what could become one of the worst famines in living memory, the UN’s top emergency relief official has warned.

The country is in “clear and present danger” of mass deaths from starvation, and as many as 14 million people — half the population — could soon be entirely dependent on aid to survive, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

Fighting is blocking shipments from getting into the country, let alone to those who need it, and even after expanding relief operations to help an estimated 8 million people, it is not possible to reach all those in need, he said.

The looming disaster could be “much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives,” he said.

Food prices have also nearly doubled in the country, Save the Children said in a new report.

Yemen has been at civil war for three years after Houthi rebels backed by Iran seized much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.

Saudi Arabia and allies, including the United Arab Emirates, joined the war in 2015.

Thousands of civilians have been caught in the middle by airstrikes and mortar bombardments.

Trapped also by minefields, huge numbers are hungry and vulnerable to infectious diseases. The country’s cholera outbreak has become the worst in history.

At least 10,000 civilians have been killed and millions displaced in what has become an urgent humanitarian catastrophe.

Lowcock said intense fighting around the rebel-held port city of Hodeida, once the entry point for much of the country’s food, posed a particular threat.

He called for a halt to fighting around ports and protection for relief convoys across the country.

Aid and commercial shipments of vital food and fuel are unloaded at Hodeida, but fighting has blocked roads east and damaged infrastructure.

Enough aid to feed 3.7 million people for a month is trapped in one warehouse.

The direct impact of the violence has been compounded by the slow collapse of the national economy.

Many public-sector salaries have not been paid for months or even years. With up to a third of Yemenis employed in the civil service, millions have been left without any income.

“The economic collapse is Yemen’s silent killer. Many Yemenis are struggling just to survive. Parents tell our staff how they’re skipping meals or are going up to two days without food to give what little they have to their children,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen.

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