By Fatih Erel
GENEVA (AA) – The UN humanitarian chief on Friday urged the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government to speed up food imports through commercial ports to prevent the rising starvation in the country.
“I am extremely concerned by recent developments in Yemen. Over the past few weeks we have seen an escalation in conflict, growing restrictions on humanitarian action and a reduction in essential commercial imports, ” the UN's humanitarian chief, Mark Lowcock, said in a statement.
“These factors are compounding the world’s worst humanitarian crisis at a time when millions of Yemenis face acute food insecurity and a possible resurgence of cholera or watery diarrhoea, ” Lowcock said.
He said key humanitarian supplies, including items required to address cholera outbreak remain on the prohibited list of imports.
According to the UN, more than 22 million people in Yemen need humanitarian assistance or protection.
“Some 8.4 million people are severely food insecure and at risk of starvation. If conditions do not improve, a further 10 million people will fall into this category by the end of the year, ” he warned.
He noted that escalating conflict since last December along the west coast and in Taiz has displaced more than 130,000 people, adding to some 3 million people forced from their homes since 2015.
“Numerous indiscriminate missiles launched by Houthi forces into Saudi Arabia add a further dimension to the conflict and put more civilians at risk, ” he added.
“While aid imports have held up recently, commercial food and fuel imports remain well short of pre-blockade averages. I am particularly concerned about the recent decline of commercial food imports through the Red Sea ports. ”
He said confidence among commercial shipping companies has eroded due to delays in the sea ports, including as a result of inspections undertaken by the Saudi-led coalition.
“I call on the government of Yemen, with the support of the coalition, to take active steps to boost commercial imports of food, fuel and humanitarian supplies through all Yemen’s ports, ” he said.
Impoverished Yemen has been wracked by conflict since 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country, including capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a wide-ranging military campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains in Yemen.
Riyadh has repeatedly accused the Houthis of acting as a proxy force for Iran.