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November 23, 2020
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Yemen on brink widespread famine amid worsening humanitarian crisis

SANAA, Yemen: The United Nations has once again warned that millions of men, women and children in war-torn Yemen are facing famine as it issued yet another appeal for more money to prevent it.

“We are on a countdown right now to a catastrophe,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley told the UN Security Council.

Yemen is again teetering on the brink of famine, senior United Nations officials told the Security Council during a videoconference meeting, reiterating their calls for donors to scale up relief funding and for the warring parties to sign the Joint Declaration for a nationwide ceasefire, economic and humanitarian measures and the resumption of peace talks.

“There is no better option than a ceasefire, combined with a return to the political process, for the parties to create stability on the front lines,” said United Nations Special Envoy Martin Griffiths, calling on the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, to ink the Joint Declaration.

The government has welcomed the Joint Declaration since its first draft, but the Houthis continue to add new conditions. Iran is seen as the rogue regime that supports the Houthis by providing weapons and other resources that are used to kill Yemenis.

Iran also dispatched an ambassador to the Houthis militias. The Houthis have diverted oil revenues, which were supposed to be used to pay salaries of public servants. On the issue of the Safer oil tanker, the Security Council should take decisive action and put greater pressure on the Houthis to avoid an environmental disaster. The Government is committed to providing all forms of support to United Nations agencies.

Related story: Yemeni mothers forced to choose which child starves

The UN describes Yemen as the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the country’s 30 million people in need of help.

A Saudi Arabia-led military coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, backing government forces fighting the Iran-allied Houthi group, which had captured the capital Sanaa a year earlier.

Since then, more than 100,000 people – fighters and civilians – have been killed.

UN officials are trying to revive peace talks to end the war as the country’s suffering has also been worsened by an economic and currency collapse and the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020 so far, the United Nations response plan has received $1.5 billion, or about 45 per cent of requirements. This means that 9 million Yemenis could lose access to basic health services, and treatment of more than half a million malnourished children could stop.

More money for the aid operation is the quickest and most efficient way to support famine prevention efforts right now, he said, imploring donors to fulfil outstanding pledges and to increase their support. A nationwide ceasefire, resuming salary payments and reopening Sana’a airport could be game‑changers, especially if they come along with more money for the relief effort.