Yemen could face “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” if the Saudi Arabia-led coalition does not lift a blockade on the war-torn country, a senior UN aid official said Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters after briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in Yemen behind closed doors, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock warned the coalition about refusing to allow humanitarian aid to Yemen.
On Monday, in response to the weekend missile attack on Riyadh by Houthi rebels, Saudi Arabia decided to close all of Yemen’s air and sea ports, stunting humanitarian relief operations in the country.
“A number of measures have been introduced recently by the coalition effectively closing air, sea and land access to Yemen,” Lowcock said.
“I have told the council that unless those measures are lifted […] there will be a famine in Yemen,” he added.
“It will not be like the famine that we saw in South Sudan earlier in the year where tens of thousands of people were affected.
“It will not be like the famine which cost 250,000 people their lives in Somalia in 2011. It will be the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims,” he added.
A Saudi-led offensive, which began in 2015, targeted pushing back Houthi advances but has been dogged by widespread allegations of international law violations.
Since March 2015, almost 5,300 civilians have been killed and close to 9,000 injured in Yemen’s war; the UN has warned that “the actual numbers were likely to be far higher”.
“We condemn the outrageous missile attack on Riyadh over the weekend just as we condemn all attacks on civilians,” Lowcock added
UN aid operations in Yemen blocked
The UN on Tuesday said it was “deeply concerned” about a series of recent attacks in Yemen and the impact of the closure of air and sea ports in the country which has blocked humanitarian operations.
UN spokesman Rupert Colville told a news conference in Geneva dozens of civilians, including children, had been killed. He appealed “to all parties to respect international law governing armed conflict”.
On Nov. 1, two airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit the Al-Layl market in the Sahaar district of Saada governorate, killing 31 civilians, including six children.
The next day seven members of a farming family, including three children, were killed in a coalition airstrike on their home in the Baqim district of Saada. Five children were also killed in Taizz by shelling carried out by a group affiliated with the Houthi rebels and army units loyal to former President Abdullah Saleh, the UN said.
“Humanitarian operations are currently blocked as a result of the closure of air and sea ports in Yemen,” UN spokesman Jens Laerke said.
Describing the port of Al-Hudaydah as a lifeline to millions of people, Laerke said also said flights carrying humanitarian aid to and from Yemen had been on hold since Monday.
Laerke said the UN was concerned about “the likely rapid negative impact of the closures on the already-dire humanitarian situation in the country where seven million people are fighting against famine-like conditions and rely completely on aid to survive”.
Yemen has remained in a state of civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
The conflict escalated when Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in 2015 aimed at reversing Houthi military gains and shoring up Yemen’s embattled government.
The death toll from a weekend suicide bombing in Yemen’s southern city of Aden has risen to 46, according to Yemeni authorities.
In a statement on Tuesday, the Interior Ministry said some 47 people had also been injured in the attack.
The Yemeni conflict in increasingly becoming internationalized. Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman said on Tuesday Iran’s supply of missiles to Houthi rebels was an “act of war” against the kingdom!!.