Humanitarian workers need safe, unhindered access to help Yemen avert famine: UN aid chief


UNITED NATIONS, Mar 2 (APP): The people of war-torn Yemen urgently need humanitarian assistance and protection, especially in the north of the country where there is a threat of famine, a top U.N. official has warned.
Briefing reporters at UN Headquarters in New York via telephone from the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the overriding need is for all parties to the conflict to provide immediate and safe access so that humanitarian actors can provide what is needed to stave off famine.
“This will require all parties to stop gamesmanship or efforts
to support their side of the fight by producing bureaucratic impediments and delays, or doubts about inspection mechanisms so that commercial shipment can be restored and food and medicines, and crucially, fuel, so water can be pumped out of the aquifers and cereals, the main foodstuff in the remotest areas of the country, can be processed,” he explained.
Yemen has been divided by nearly two years of civil war that pits the
Iran-allied Houthi group against a Western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 3.3 million people in Yemen – including 2.1 million children –
are acutely malnourished, the U.N. says. They include 460,000 children under age of five with the worst form of malnutrition, who risk dying of pneumonia or diarrhea.
Fighting in or near ports hampers access for aid coming from outside.
O’Brien recalled that he had headed directly to Yemen from the Oslo
Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region, which had generated more than $670 million in pledges to help sustain critical relief operations over the next two years and beyond across four counties where millions are in need of aid.
He said that along with Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen is among
the countries, which, for the first time in modern history, could fall into simultaneous famine.
“The common factor between the four potential famines is that they are
all in the context of man-made conflicts which have become protracted crises in the absence of a resolution of the underlying causes and an unwillingness of the parties to […] find their way to a political track.”
Briefing alongside Jamie McGoldrick, the Resident Coordinator in Yemen,
O’Brien highlighted the difficulties faced by relief agencies to bring aid to the communities that need it and reported that on Wednesday, he and his team were unable to reach the city of Taiz, because it had been stopped at military checkpoint even after assurances had been received.
“It was very disappointing but illustrative. If I could not get through,
it would be much more difficult for caravans that require safe and unrestricted access to reach all people in need wherever they are,” he said.
In this regard, he reported that he spoke with the Houthi authorities on
his return to Sana’a and had been assured that effort would be made to open the routes for the flow of food and other humanitarian supplies.
He went on to explain that the country’s population of internally
displaced persons (IDPs) is growing and compounding the challenges of access, food insecurity and health care concerns.
As he continues his visit, O’Brien s, who is also the UN
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, said he would meet with Houthi authorities and make clear the expectation that the UN and all humanitarian implementing partners – international and local – should have immediate, safe and unimpeded access to people in need, at all times, help avert a famine, and to help mobilize resources necessary at the pledging conflict in April in Geneva.