The United Nations aid chief warned Thursday, January 26 that Yemen was sliding deeper into humanitarian crisis and could face famine this year, AFP reports.
The poor Arab country has been engulfed in war since a Saudi-led coalition launched a bombing campaign in March 2015 to push back Iran-backed Huthi rebels who had seized the capital Sanaa and other cities.
“The conflict in Yemen is now the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world,” Stephen O’Brien, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the Security Council.
“If there is no immediate action, famine is now a possible scenario for 2017.”
About 14 million people — nearly 80 percent of the entire Yemeni population — are in need of food aid, half of whom are severely food insecure, O’Brien said.
At least 2 million people need emergency food assistance to survive, he added.
The situation is particularly dire for children with some 2.2 million infants now suffering from acute malnourishment — an increase of 53 percent from late 2015.
“Overall, the plight of children remains grim: a child under the age of 10 dying every 10 minutes of preventable causes,” O’Brien said.
The Saudi-led coalition’s shutdown of the Sanaa airport has had a heavy toll on civilians because medicine cannot be flown in and Yemenis cannot receive treatment abroad.
O’Brien warned that Yemen could run out of wheat within months because foreign banks no longer accept financial transactions with many of the country’s commercial banks.