Yemen is in “imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades”, the UN chief warned in a statement released on Friday, calling for urgent action on the part of the international community to “stave off catastrophe”.
Secretary-General António Guterres warned that without immediate action to protect civilians battered and starved, after more than five years of grinding civil conflict, “millions of lives may be lost.”
.@antonioguterres says Yemen is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades - millions of lives may be lost. He requests that everyone avoids taking any action that could make the already dire situation even worse. https://t.co/U1IS6Nvt7t— UN Spokesperson (@UN_Spokesperson) November 20, 2020
On Tuesday, the UN released $100 million in emergency funding from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), to avert the growing threat of famine across seven countries, including Yemen, deemed most at risk of famine.
‘Time is running out’
Earlier in the month, UN relief chief Mark Lowcock, warned the Security Council that Yemenis were not simply “going hungry”, they were being starved, and all parties to the conflict - between the internationally-recognized Government supported by a Saudi-led coalition, and the opposing Houthi militias which control much of the country including the capital – needed to do everything possible to prevent widespread famine.
“All of us – parties to the conflict, Security Council members, donors, humanitarian organizations and others – should do everything we can to stop this. Time is running out”, Emergency Relief Coordinator and OCHA chief Lowcock told the Council.
In his statement, the UN chief said a combination of factors had come together to create famine conditions, including “a drastic reduction in funding for the UN-coordinated relief operation this year compared to 2018 and 2019, a failure to sustain external support for Yemen’s economy, especially in stabilizing the value of the Yemeni Rial, and the impact of the ongoing conflict and impediments imposed by powerful Yemeni and other parties on the life-saving work of humanitarian agencies.”
To cap the crises rooted in human behavior, locusts and floods are compounding the problem, added the UN chief.
“I urge all those with influence to act urgently on these issues to stave off catastrophe, and I also request that everyone avoids taking any action that could make the already dire situation even worse”, said Mr. Guterres.
“Failing that”, he concluded, “we risk a tragedy not just in the immediate loss of life but with consequences that will reverberate indefinitely into the future.”