Yemen crisis reaches new low, top UN officials tell Security Council


Senior UN officials on Tuesday reported before the UN Security Council that the humanitarian crisis in Yemen has never been worse as they renewed their call for an immediate ceasefire in the war torn country.

With conflict escalating, famine on the horizon, the economy in tatters and COVID-19 out of control, the UN officials said that “there is no time to lose”.

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said, “Negotiations between the Government and Houthi rebels on a ceasefire and the resumption of peace talks are continuing, but compromises must be made before the window of opportunity slams shut.”

Yemenis need a nationwide ceasefire, Griffiths said, calling on the party to do everything possible to immediately de-escalate the violence.

UN humanitarian affairs chief Mark Lowcock, echoing calls for an immediate ceasefire, added that funding for aid operations in Yemen is “frankly on the verge of collapse” with only 18% of the money required for 2020 having been received so far.

“Without more funding, we should all expect large increases in hunger, malnutrition, cholera, COVID-19 and, above all, death,” he said, just as demand for assistance is set to rise sharply.

The two officials delivered their grim messages as the 15-member Council debated the ongoing war in Yemen in only its second in-person meeting since the COVID-19 pandemic, shut down UN Headquarters in New York in mid-March.

Mr. Griffiths said the military situation in Yemen has not improved during the past month, with fighting in the oil-producing Marib region, liable to undermine ceasefire prospects. He also called on all sides to protect civilians, following recent that included children among the casualties.

With food prices rising, the value of the Yemeni rial depreciating, and most Yemenis without enough money to meet their basic needs, the two sides must agree on ways to keep the economy out of the conflict, he added.

Noting that the number of active front lines in Yemen has grown to 43 from 33 in January, Mr. Lowcock said that nearly 1 million displaced people are sheltering in and around Marib – and if the city comes under assault, waves of already vulnerable people are certain to flee the area.

He implored donors to make good on their pledges to this year’s UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen. “There is no time to lose,” he said, noting that a sharp drop in payments from Yemen’s neighbours in the Gulf region is the main reason for the yawning gap in funding.

In its latest situation report, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Tuesday put the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Yemen at 1,695, with 484 deaths – but with the data from Houthi-controlled areas unclear, officials fear the real number could well be much higher. (Source: UN News)