Yemen’s conflict has pushed it to the brink of famine, a top official says.
Ertharin Cousin, head of the World Food Programme (WFP), said markets in the country do not have enough food to feed the population – nearly 13 million people urgently require help.
Aid agencies are also unable to reach areas of need because of the ongoing violence, she added.
The conflict has involved Houthi rebel fighters clashing with forces loyal to the Yemeni government and its allies.
Ms Cousin, who was speaking in Cairo after a three-day trip to Yemen, said fighting around the major ports is stalling deliveries of aid.
She said Yemen faced the “perfect storm” because those people most in need were not being reached and aid groups working there were not getting enough financial support from donors.
Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien, who has also just returned from Yemen, told the UN Security Council on Wednesday that “the scale of human suffering is almost incomprehensible”.
He also strongly criticised the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen for bombing the port of Hodeida, saying it was a violation of international humanitarian law.
A UN World Food Programme ship was in the port, which is on the country’s west coast, when it was hit by airstrikes on Tuesday night.
“I am extremely concerned that the damage to the port of Hodeida could have a severe impact on the entire country and will deepen humanitarian needs,” Mr O’Brien said.
The UN has raised Yemen to its highest level of humanitarian crisis, placing it alongside emergencies in South Sudan, Syria and Iraq.
Nearly 2,000 civilians are said to have died since the coalition began its bombing campaign in support of the exiled government in March.
More than 21 million people in Yemen – about 80% of the population – are in need of help, according to the UN.
Why is there fighting in Yemen?
- Northern Shia Muslim rebels known as Houthis, backed by forces loyal to Yemen’s ex-president, took over parts of Yemen, including Sanaa, and forced the government into exile in March
- The rebels accused the government of corruption and of planning to marginalise their heartland within a proposed federal system
- Forces loyal to the government, and southern militia, are fighting back, aided by air strikes led by neighbouring Saudi Arabia
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