UN’s deputy humanitarian chief tells the Security Council up to 4 million people could see their food aid reduced in the coming weeks as agencies are running short of money to keep going at the current scale.
Yemen’s economy is collapsing, its humanitarian crisis is worsening, and the conflict in the Arab world’s poorest nation is growing more violent.
The grim remarks by Assistant Secretary-General Ramesh Rajasingham came during a briefing to the UN Security Council on Thursday.
More than 20 million Yemenis - two-thirds of the population-need humanitarian assistance, but aid agencies, he said, “are, once again, starting to run out of money.”
Aid agencies are now helping nearly 13 million people across the country, about 3 million more than just a few months ago, Rajasingham added.
“Our best assessment is that this expansion has considerably pushed back the immediate risk of large-scale famine.”
But he warned that aid agencies don’t have enough money to keep going at this scale and “in the coming weeks and months, up to 4 million people could see their food aid reduced” and “by the end of the year, that number could rise to 5 million people.”
“We are calling on everyone to do everything possible to sustain the momentum we’ve built over the last several months and keep famine at bay,” he said.
Additionally, he pointed out that Yemen’s economic collapse “is driving most needs in the country – including the risk of famine.”
He urged immediate steps to stem the country’s economic collapse including injections of foreign exchange through the Central Bank which would quickly bring down prices, as they did in the past, as well as fully opening all ports, lifting import restrictions at Hodeida and Saleef, and paying civil servant salaries.
Yemen has been convulsed by civil war since 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of the capital of Sanaa and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee to the south, then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition entered the war in March 2015, backed by the United States, to try to restore President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power, and threw its support behind his government.
Despite a relentless air campaign and ground fighting, the war has deteriorated largely into a stalemate and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The US has since suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.
Recently, more than 130 Yemeni rebels have been killed in strikes south of Marib, a development that contributed to de-stabilising the country.