’20 million Yemenis are hungry,’ U.N. official says

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UNITED NATIONS, Dec 11 (APP):Twenty million Yemenis — or about 70 percent of the war-torn country’s population — are hungry, UN Under Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock has said.

Lowcock, who was briefing reporters about his recent trip to Yemen, said a desperate situation there underlined the need for progress at peace talks between the country’s government and Houthi rebels, currently taking place in Sweden.
Describing the lack of food for civilians as an ‘atrocious crisis”, he said the past year had seen a 45 per cent rise in the number of Yemenis suffering from hunger and that there was consensus among people from all sides of the conflict that he had spoken to. “They have all got one message and their message is that they are at the end of their tether and they want this war to stop.”
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host an international pledging conference on Yemen to take place in Geneva on February 26, together with the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, Lowcock said.
The $4 billion appeal for 2019 is up from $3bn this year and $2 billion the year before.
“The big picture is straightforward and easy to understand. There are 20 million hungry people in Yemen, 70 per cent of the population,”Lowcock said. “In 152 of the country’s 333 districts there is an emergency. Large numbers have moved into a worse category.”
Worst affected of all are 250,000 Yemeni civilians he classed as being at phase five “catastrophe” level, when it comes to food poverty.
“We have never before documented people in phase five in the food crisis in Yemen,” he said, noting that all such citizens were concentrated in four districts where the war is raging, including the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
“There is only one other country in the world where there is anyone in phase five and that is South Sudan, where there are 25,000.”
The UN data was gathered from 330 of Yemen’s 333 districts.
Peace talks taking place in the Swedish town of Rimbo are the first direct UN-backed negotiations between the Houthis and Yemen’s internationally-recognized government since a civil war began in 2015. That effort, being led by UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, is seen as a first step to ending the war. Access to the port of Hodeidah, controlled by the Houthis, is seen as a stumbling block.
“The situation is not under control. It’s not the case that things are getting better. The first thing we have to do is stop them getting worse and then we have to work on them getting better,” Lowcock said of humanitarian issues on the ground and the need for progress on peace.
“Hodeidah is a lifeline. It’s not the only port. We want all ports and all the sea ports to be open but the vast majority of the people in Yemen are in Houthi-controlled areas and Hodeidah is the way you get food into those people without having to cross front lines. Crossing front lines is extremely difficult in a hot war, and this is a hot war.”
Lowcock said a $500 million pledge made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE last month would be included in the $4 billion figure earmarked in the 2019 UN appeal for Yemen.
“The collapse of the economy means that more and more people need help,” Lowcock added.
A donors’ conference backed by Sweden, Switzerland and the UN is set to take place on February 26 in Geneva.
“We didn’t have a cessation of hostilities,” although the violence appears to have decreased, added Lowcock, who recently traveled to the country, expressing hope for a positive outcome to peace negotiations taking place in Sweden between the parties under UN auspices.
He denounced obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid, noting that Yemen also needs help to bring its economy back from the brink.
“Hodeida port is crucial” for humanitarian aid, Lowcock said, referring to the flashpoint city at the heart of negotiations in Sweden.
The Yemeni government, which is backed by Saudi Arabia and its military allies, has been battling the Iran-backed Huthi rebels for control of Yemen for nearly four years, spawning what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Mark Lowcock, who was briefing reporters about his recent trip to Yemen, said a desperate situation there underlined the need for progress at peace talks between the country’s government and Houthi rebels, currently taking place in Sweden.
Describing the lack of food for civilians as an “atrocious crisis”, he said the past year had seen a 45 per cent rise in the number of Yemenis suffering from hunger and that there was consensus among people from all sides of the conflict that he had spoken to.
“They have all got one message and their message is that they are at the end of their tether and they want this war to stop,”said Mr Lowcock, head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, of his visit to the war-torn country.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres will host an international pledging conference on Yemen to take place in Geneva on February 26, together with the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, Mr Lowcock said.
The $4 billion appeal for 2019 is up from $3bn this year and $2 billion the year before.
“The big picture is straightforward and easy to understand. There are 20 million hungry people in Yemen, 70 per cent of the population,” said Mr Lowcock. “In 152 of the country’s 333 districts there is an emergency. Large numbers have moved into a worse category. ”
Worst affected of all are 250,000 Yemeni civilians he classed as being at phase five “catastrophe” level, when it comes to food poverty.
“We have never before documented people in phase five in the food crisis in Yemen,” he said, noting that all such citizens were concentrated in four districts where the war is raging, including the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
“There is only one other country in the world where there is anyone in phase five and that is South Sudan, where there are 25,000.”
The UN data was gathered from 330 of Yemen’s 333 districts.
Peace talks taking place in the Swedish town of Rimbo are the first direct UN-backed negotiations between the Houthis and Yemen’s internationally-recognising government since a civil war began in 2015. That effort, being led by UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, is seen as a first step to ending the war. Access to the port of Hodeidah, controlled by the Houthis, is seen as a stumbling block.
“The situation is not under control. It’s not the case that things are getting better. The first thing we have to do is stop them getting worse and then we have to work on them getting better,” Mr Lowcock said of humanitarian issues on the ground and the need for progress on peace.
“Hodeidah is a lifeline. It’s not the only port. We want all ports and all the sea ports to be open but the vast majority of the people in Yemen are in Houthi-controlled areas and Hodeidah is the way you get food into those people without having to cross front lines. Crossing front lines is extremely difficult in a hot war, and this is a hot war.”
Mr Lowcock said a $500 million pledge made by Saudi Arabia and the UAE last month would be included in the $4 billion figure earmarked in the 2019 UN appeal for Yemen.
“The collapse of the economy means that more and more people need help,” Mr Lowcock added.
“That is why we need Martin’s talks to succeed.”