Yemen fighting worsening already dire humanitarian situation, warns UN official

28 March 2011

The top United Nations relief official today called for restraint by all sides in Yemen, warning that the ongoing violence is worsening an already dire humanitarian situation.

It is estimated that the recent political turmoil in Yemen, part of a wave of protests across the Middle East and North Africa calling for social, economic and democratic reforms, has led to more than 82 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

“I am especially concerned about the humanitarian situation in Yemen because, even before the recent protests, the country was facing a humanitarian crisis due to protracted conflict in the north displacing 300,000 people, some of them multiple times,” said Valerie Amos, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator.

“The recent fighting has again affected hundreds of people that have not recovered from earlier conflict,” she added, urging those involved to refrain from violence and ensure the safety of civilians.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the country is also facing acute water and food shortages. Some 31.5 per cent of the population is food-insecure, and approximately 12 per cent – or 2.7 million people – are severely food insecure.

Ms. Amos noted that some humanitarian agencies are having difficulty reaching those in need due to insecurity. The UN is discussing access with both the Government and the Al-Houthi rebels. “I hope we will have a meaningful agreement on access soon,” she stated.

“The prolonged and chronic suffering in the country means that humanitarian aid continues to be urgently needed.”

Both Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the UN human rights office have voiced their concern about the situation in Yemen, where a state of emergency has been declared. Mr. Ban has called for a broad dialogue with the political opposition, youth groups and other elements of civil society leading to “bold” reforms in country.

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