UN official warns of devastating famine in Yemen if blockade not lifted


UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 9 (APP):The top relief official of the United Nations has warned that Yemen would face the “largest famine” in decades unless the Saudi-led military coalition ends its air, sea and land blockade and allows aid deliveries into the impoverished country.
“It will be the largest famine the world hasn’t seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, told reporters after he briefed the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Yemen on Wednesday.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi movement in neighbouring Yemen said on Monday it had closed all air, land and sea ports to the Arabian Peninsula country to stem the flow of arms to the Houthis from Iran.
The move, which follows the interception of a missile fired toward the Saudi capital Riyadh on Saturday, is likely to worsen a humanitarian crisis in Yemen that according to the United Nations has pushed some seven million people to the brink of famine and left nearly 900,000 infected with cholera.
Lowcock asked for five steps to avert the imminent humanitarian tragedy, including a resumption of flights by the UN and partners to Yemeni cities Sanaa and Aden, assurances that the air services will not be disrupted, and an agreement on the pre-positioning of the World Food Programme vessel in the waters off Aden and assurances that its functions will not be disrupted.
The rest of the steps are a resumption of humanitarian and commercial access to all seaports of Yemen, especially for essential supplies, and a scaling back of interference with all vessels that have passed UN inspection so that they can proceed to ports in Yemen as rapidly as possible.
The humanitarian chief was asked to brief the Security Council, which held a closed-door meeting over Yemen at the request of the Swedish Mission to the UN.
Following Wednesday’s meeting, the UN Security Council demanded that Saudi Arabia open all borders into Yemen and allow humanitarian aid deliveries into the country.
Italian Ambassador Sebastiano Cardi, whose country holds the council presidency, told reporters that all council members, including Saudi Arabia’s US and British allies, expressed concern about the “dire humanitarian situation in Yemen” and stressed “the importance of keeping all of Yemen’s ports and airports functioning.”
Lowcock, the top UN relief official, also told reporters that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had held talks with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir on Wednesday, in which the UN head called for the immediate resumption of humanitarian access in Yemen.